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Zimbio Review - Harebrained 'Charlie Countryman' is a Tough Watch


(Millennium Entertainment )Long story short: A mixture of a lot of better movies and themes, Charlie Countryman struggles to find a voice, or a story.

Charlie Countryman will remind you of: Trance, Trainspotting, Run Lola Run, Before Sunrise

Review: Charlie Countryman is an unoriginal, 
predictable exercise in style over substance, an inauspicious debut for commercial director Frederik Bond. The filmmaker apparently believes if he fills the screen with hyperactive editing and color, we won't notice how boring his movie is. He's wrong. This film is a great example of the absence of story. It's a parlor trick, and not a good one. 

After his mother dies and he watches her soul float above the bed like a shot of Febreze, Charlie Countryman (Shia LaBeouf) has a vision. She comes to him from the void and suggests he go to Bucharest. So he does, and thus, Charlie Countryman establishes its main theme of fate and ghostly visions. On the plane, the guy in the seat next to him dies. And, hilariously, the stewardess tells Charlie to chill and wait it out. It's just a dead guy after all. But Charlie is like Haley Joel Osment. He sees dead people. The dude comes to him in another vision and asks Charlie to deliver a hat to his daughter. 

Once in Romania, Charlie finds the daughter in tears at the airport and immediately falls in love with her. Except, big problem, Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood) has major baggage. She's beautiful and a hell of a cellist, but she's also the estranged wife of a razor of a man, Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen), who just happens to be a psychotic gangster. 

Charlie Countryman wants us to buy the Romeo and Juliet angle and believe romance conquers all. The irrationality of love is a fine thing to explore and endlessly cinematic, but the film's meager script (by Project X "mastermind" Matt Drake) doesn't bother developing any kind of chemistry between Charlie and Gabi. She's hot, that's enough.

To enhance the story, Bond shot and cut Charlie Countryman like he would a commercial. The camera moves ceaselessly from every angle in a vague attempt at coolness but, without true thrills, it only serves as an annoyance. We're even treated to a hallucinogenic sequence (LaBeouf actually took acid during shooting) that's not exactly out of place, it's just unnecessary. The camera work is Danny Boyle-lite, adding kinetic nausea to a story unworthy of it.

What does work in Charlie Countryman is the setting (Bucharest at night) and the supporting cast. Wood is fun to watch with a Romanian accent. And Mikkelsen just rules every scene. It's especially great seeing him in Terminator-mode. An added guilty pleasure comes from watching him pummel LaBeouf in scene after scene.

LaBeouf shows us nothing new in his portrayal of Charlie. He's, once again, a normal, friendly guy caught up in an extreme situation. The biggest problem with the character is it's hard to believe he would ever risk his life for a girl he just met. Forget the fact his love for her is absurd in the first place. He's just too vanilla to be mixing it up with a Romanian gangster. Seeing him go toe to toe with Mikkelsen is like watching a tulip stare down a bulldozer. 

So, just to sum up, Charlie Countryman sends an American to Europe on a destined search for himself where he becomes embroiled in a star-crossed lovers story. The movie is a cliché within a cliché. But even if you forgive the writing, you'll still have to contend with Bond's rapid fire direction and LaBeouf's Kevin Arnold act. This is the sum of an equation even the great Wood and Mikkelsen can't solve.

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