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|The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman
dir Fredrik Bond
scr Matt Drake
prd Albert Berger, Craig J Flores, William Horberg, Ron Yerxa
with Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelsen, Til Schweiger, Melissa Leo, Rupert Grint, James Buckley, Ion Caramitru, Andrei Finti, Lachlan Nieboer, Vincent D'Onofrio, Aubrey Plaza
release US 15.Nov.13, UK 31.Oct.14
Dangerous liaison: Wood and LaBeouf
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
BERLIN FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
In the vein of After Hours, with a much more morbid slant, this film sends its hapless protagonist on a wild and woolly journey that veers from personal grief to romance to slapstick to violence. It all feels rather jarringly erratic, but the characters' intensity keeps us holding on for the ride.
Charlie (LaBeouf) is unnerved when his recently deceased mother (Leo) appears and suggests that he goes Bucharest ("That's weirdly specific!"). On the flight it happens again: a dead man (Caramitru) asks Charlie to give a message to his daughter Gabi (Wood). And things get even stranger after that, as he stays in a hostel with two chucklehead British stoners (Grint and Buckley). But Charlie is smitten with Gabi, only slightly put off by her thuggish husband Nigel (Mikkelsen) and vicious club-owner Darko (Schweiger), both of whom want him dead.
As the action pings around Bucharest, first-time feature director Bond maintains both the black comedy and thoughtful emotions, an odd mix that sometimes makes it feel like we're changing channels between different movies. But most of this manages to resonate because there's authenticity even in the broadest moments. There are also plenty of gags about Romania ("Surely you meant to visit Budapest") and a refusal to let the film spiral into Taken-style action mayhem. Although it gets close.
LaBeouf is enjoyable as the aimless guy who discovers a spark of romance and isn't about to let it go, even if his life is in danger. He has nothing to lose, so he takes threats from Nigel and Darko with a grain of salt and just rolls with an unexpected drug trip. This allows Mikkelsen, Schweiger, Grint and Buckley plenty of space to play with their silly-but-dangerous characters. And Wood provides just the right mix of chemistry and peril.
Along the way, Bond fills scenes with cool visual effects while keeping the plot submerged in the colourful production design. Essentially an odyssey of self-discovery, the story plays out in a meandering, freeform style, drifting from one mini-adventure to the next as Charlie gets entangled in a mystery, blackmail, mob wars, fistfights, shoot-outs and chases. All of this is far less interesting than Charlie's internal journey, which kind of leaves the film feeling rather pointless. But it has its moments. And it looks great.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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