grieving man-child is in for a heavy dose of fear and loathing in Bucharest. It should have been fear and loathing in
Budapest, or so everyone tells him as part of the film’s running refrain. Viewers will wish they were there too, since
the Hungarian city has nothing to do with Fredrik Bond’s ambitious but
disappointing Charlie Countryman (trailer here), which opens
Friday in New York.
Countryman’s comatose mother is taken off life support, he does not handle the
rush of reality well, but her ghost (or his mental projection) forgives
him. As therapy or to broaden his narrow
horizons, she makes him promise to visit Bucharest before going on her spirit
way. You might think he would develop a
complex when the old fellow sitting next to him on the flight also shuffles off
the mortal coil and gives Countryman a few ghostly parting words. However, when Countryman meets Victor
Ibanescu’s daughter Gabi in the airport, he does his best to comfort her with his
a professional cellist, Gabi Ibanescu is way out of his league, but Countryman
falls for her hard. Further complicating
matters, her ex is the sociopathic gangster, Nigel. It seems Victor had some incriminating
evidence he had used to keep the Euro crime boss at bay. With the stakes and MacGuffin clearly
identified, Countryman and his youth hostel cronies proceed to get really high
and run afoul a mobbed-up strip club. At
least it advances the plot.
LaBeouf seems to have a knack for getting Alec Baldwin’s goat, so hats off to
him. In fact, he deserves credit for
taking on such an unlikable character and following through on it. Unfortunately, he cannot single-handedly
rescue this weird mishmash. Nonetheless, he is completely convincing as the
whiny and immature Countryman.
other hand, Evan Rachel Wood as a Romanian femme fatale? Not so much.
Mads Mikkelsen does his thing as Nigel, but we have seen this shtick
before. Probably the most colorfully
assured turn comes from an actual Romanian, well regarded actor and former
Minister of Culture Ion Caramitru as the ill-fated Ibanescu. Bizarrely, quite a few big names are
completely wasted here, including Aubrey Plaza in a thankless walk-on cameo as
Countryman’s fed-up ex-girlfriend.
Frankly, the real star of Countryman is cinematographer Roman Vasyanov, whose neon noir look
is seductively ominous. In contrast,
Matt Drake’s more-holes-than-Swiss-cheese screenplay does not do anyone any
favors, particular the talking dead people motif. Whether intended as magical realism or
psychological expressionism, it comes off as a clumsy affectation. There are some wonderfully evocative shots of
Bucharest by night, but the vivid sense of place is not enough to recommended Countryman. Never really coming together, Charlie Countryman opens this Friday
(11/15) in New York at the AMC Empire.
Labels: Mads Mikkelsen, Shia LaBeouf