In The American, George Clooney, plays Jack, a guy nearing the end of his career. He's been a loyal company man for years, but now has to face the uncertainty of retirement. He's good at his job but competition from younger employees, in particular a woman in his traditionally male dominated profession, has started to make him feel less competent. If you've seen the trailers, you know that Jack isn't a mill wright or an advertising executive, but a hired killer. I guess the poster could have suggested that, or maybe a policeman.
In the opening moments of the film, even before the credits, Jack survives an assassination attempt against him. He's quite cold blooded about it. He heads to Italy, where, apparently, his contact lives. This man tells Jack to lay low in a particular little town and gives him a cell phone. Jack, ever cautious, ditches the phone and takes a small apartment in a different town.
As a character study, I thought the movie was pretty good. My wife who doesn't like movies which are character studies, didn't like it. Clooney is very good. It is hard, however, to like Jack. We're given no reason to. We don't know who he's worked for. He's called The American simply because he's an American in a small Italian town. Did he work for the US government? Was he free lance? The Italian connection suggests that maybe he worked for a crime syndicate. At one point he tells a priest, who has inexplicably taken an interest in Jack, that he had good reasons for doing the things he did. Maybe so, but it's also clear that he's coming to regret those things as he's trying to complete one last job (it's an easy job he's told, you're not the trigger man, you just have to make the gun). Can he complete this job and somehow find some peace? Does he deserve peace? I don't know the answer to the second question and you'll have to see the movie to find out the answer to the first.