Last year, David Fincher’s “The Killer” followed a methodical approach to its storytelling. Its events unfold like a monotonous system, which reflects a contract killer’s life – even if they do not seem as exciting as usual movies make us believe. Gonzalo López-Gallego’s “American Star” falls in a similar zone due to its narration style. Much like Fincher’s latest work, it quietly observes the protagonist’s life as he goes on with his job. Nothing is explicitly told but gradually and organically revealed. With Ian McShane’s highly commanding presence in the lead role, this mystery thriller becomes a rather gripping affair. 

Spoilers ahead. 

American Star (2024) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

What is ‘American Star’ about?

“American Star,” directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego, is about an 81-year-old hitman hired to kill someone on a remote island. When his target is delayed, he gets more involved in the things around him – people, places, and everything in between. Written by Nacho Faerna, the script is thin but intriguing. The cast of “American Star” includes Ian McShane, Nora Arnezeder, Adam Nagaitis, Fanny Ardant, and Oscar Coleman. 

What happens in ‘American Star’?

“American Star” begins with Wilson (played by McShane) arriving at the Fuerteventura island’s airport. He is hired to assassinate a man on a property on this island. So, he drives there and walks through an empty terrain. Finally, he enters the house but finds no one inside. He looks around with a calculated approach. Moments later, a young woman walks inside the house. While she enters the swimming pool, Wilson quietly escapes the property. Turns out Wilson’s target is delayed. So, he is told to prolong his stay on the island. 

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Wilson returns to his hotel and sees a kid sitting outside a neighboring room while a couple argues inside. Since Wilson has no exact goal for a while, he tries to get a taste of the islanders’ relaxed lifestyle. During this tranquil vacation, he stumbles upon Mojo Blues Bar. He enters to have a drink. That’s where he sees a photo of the remains of a wrecked ship known as American Star. The bartender – Gloria (played by Nora Arnezeder), guides him on how to get there. She was the woman who entered the house where he was supposed to assassinate a man.  

Does Wilson visit the American Star? 

After his conversation with Gloria, Wilson drives toward the American Star. Along the way, he notices a car following him. Once he reaches a shore, the other car stops, and a man follows him. The young man – Ryan (played by Adam Nagaitis), is the son of Wilson’s best friend and ex-colleague. They return to the hotel to have lunch. Turns out, Ryan is sent there to keep a tap on the old man until their target arrives on the island. During their brief conversation, we get a sense of their contrasting viewpoints on life and its purpose – which likely stem from them belonging to different generations. Wilson and Ryan’s dad value different things than what Ryan does. 

While Ryan stays around in his shadows, Wilson befriends Gloria. She offers to join him to visit the American Star. The following day, he drives her there. They ask each other about their lives. She wonders what he is doing in the middle of nowhere. Wilson says he provides personal security for businesses and is taking a vacation. Gloria says she moved to Fuerteventura eight years ago – to be with her real-estate agent mother. After a while, they reach the shore to find the wrecked luxury cruise ship known as American Star. Gloria tells the few bits of history she knows about it. Wilson says the ship is older than him. Suddenly, they sense as if the ship moved. Together, they let the moment sink into their collective consciousness. 

What happens between Wilson & Gloria?

A still from American Star (2024).
A still from American Star (2024).

Gloria and Wilson go back for a drink. While he leaves her for a moment, Ryan comes there to have a chat with her. Ryan and Wilson pretend as if they don’t know each other. By the evening, Wilson starts driving her back to her house. Then, he returns to his hotel to find Ryan waiting for him. The young lad warns him not to get close to anyone local. Nevertheless, Wilson seems too tired to stay within the confines of his past, violent life. Besides Gloria, he also befriends Max (played by Oscar Coleman) – the kid he sees sitting outside his neighboring room. They seek company from their lives, otherwise filled with misery and loneliness.  

Later, Wilson drives to Gloria’s mother – Anne’s (played by Fanny Ardant) house. In Gloria’s absence, he and Anne strike up a conversation. She tries to check why Gloria is so invested in this man. He says that he is on a short holiday on this island. Anne thinks Wilson reminds Gloria of her absent father. Eventually, Gloria comes home, and they all have a meal. She gets him to dance with her mother. While dancing, Anne tells Wilson not to hurt her daughter. Later, Wilson drives Gloria to the bar. She realizes that he will be leaving soon. So, she hugs him tight before leaving.

American Star (2024) Movie Ending Explained:

What happens to Gloria in the end?

Ryan realizes that Wilson has been spending so much time with Gloria. He knows Gloria’s criminal history and how she was in a relationship with a drug dealer. So, he warns Wilson to be careful about his actions. Wilson loathes Ryan’s condescending tone and concludes by saying he will finish the job. Eventually, he meets her in the town and offers her a ride back home. Then, they go to a nearby shore. She goes into the ocean for a swim. He stays back and goes through her camera history. That’s where he sees photos of her with Ryan. It upsets him to the point he decides to abruptly leave. But she realizes that he’s leaving and joins him. 

During the ride, Wilson asks her about her past – to make her speak the truth. Eventually, he tells all that he knows about her. So, she panics and tells him to stop the car. Right after, he tells her to leave the island for her own safety. She walks back, shouting, angry at the fact that she saw him as someone she could trust. Finally, Wilson’s target returns to their house. Wilson shoots him and his wife dead. Moments later, Gloria walks inside. Wilson tells her to leave the island at the earliest. Unfortunately, before she can do anything, Ryan comes there and shoots her dead. Wilson feels deeply hurt by Ryan’s actions. So, he takes Ryan’s life and carries his body to the ocean. 

At the end of “American Star,” we see the wrecked ship disappear from the ocean. It likely indicates the transient nature of everything in the world. The ship serves almost as a metaphor for Wilson and his weariness after his past violent life. So, at last, it likely shows how the signs of death and destruction disappear in the grand scheme of things. 

American Star (2024) Movie Review:

As a film, “American Star” is more about style than substance. It feels like a poetic ode to a man who is weary of a life of intense violence. The film relies heavily on the atmosphere to give a sense of tranquillity the protagonist seeks in his life. It makes him feel oddly at peace to the point we do not see him as a hired gun. He rarely seems intimidating or threatening, and Gonzalo López-Gallego’s direction deserves credit for this, apart from Ian McShane’s internalized performance. This subversion works exceptionally well and makes us resonate with the human hiding behind the tough guy persona the assassin walks around with. 

Despite its relative thinness, the script has an ample amount of elements to bring out the humanity of its characters. Besides his calculated approach to killing, we see Wilson through contrasting layers. He rescues a local man from the trunk of a car right after having a word with the intruder in his target’s accommodation. This duality does not feel psychotic or unnerving. Instead, it goes further to convey his willingness to change and be someone who saves lives rather than taking them. The film keeps going back and forth between being daunting and strangely comforting. 

Somehow, Lopez-Gallego’s direction manages to strike a fine balance between its contrasting tones and becomes a deeply meditative and highly immersive mystery thriller – much like last year’s “Pacification.” 

Read More: Where to Watch & Stream the new mystery thriller ‘American Star’ starring Ian McShane?

Trailer

American Star (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
The Cast of American Star (2024) Movie: Ian McShane, Nora Arnezeder, Oscar Coleman
American Star (2024) Genre: Thriller | Runtime: 1h 47 Mins

 

Where to watch American Star

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