By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Look, I get it. Shia LaBeouf shoots his mouth off far too often, regardless of the merit of his targets, seems to have a fascination with wagging his penis in our faces as often as possible (if you must… Sigur Ros, plus the upcoming Lars Von Trier sextravaganza Nymphomaniac), and clearly thinks he’s some kind of young Marlon Brando.
Nope, not gonna cut it
Still, you can’t deny he has an eye for interesting projects post-Transformers, and Charlie Countryman certainly qualifies as interesting. If the time-honored tale of a young man who goes to Bucharest on the behest of his recently be-ghosted mother, Sixth Sense’s it up with a Hungarian man on the plane over, then falls in love with his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) upon arriving, only to run afoul of her scary gangster Ex (Mads Mikkelsen) who, as you’ll notice by casting alone, isn’t taking it lightly.
Charlie Countryman has quite the eclectic mix of ideas for sale, but I’m buying what it’s selling. First time, former commercials director Fredrik Bond has style to spare, imbuing the film with a grungy, neon-splashed look halfway between Danny Boyle and Nicolas Windig Refn, clearly enjoys experimenting with his camera to mixed but generally awesome results, and sets it all to an ace pop and electronica-infused soundtrack. The result is a dynamic, beautiful, and never-boring film.
This is the perfect approach to a script full of nutty characters and ideas that nonetheless comes together due to the generally excellent work of its cast, especially Melissa Leo, the always great Mikkelsen, and yes, LaBeouf, who delivers an engaging, believable performance in a film that stretches that believability.
I also liked how the film sweated the small details. Just about the time you think to yourself “Hey, what about that cabbie?” Bond has you covered, unlike most Hollywood productions.
Hey, what about those thousands of people?
Admittedly, this script does have a bit of a dialogue problem, sometimes struggling and failing at sounding natural. Also, it’s not nearly as funny as it thinks it is, the best efforts of Ron Weasley’s… weasel notwithstanding.
Oh, you scamp, you.
Charlie Countryman got savaged by critics, which makes me wonder how much of that is Shia exhaustion (or thin-skinned Cubs fans) at work. Is it uneven and imperfect at times? Sure, but it also has real ideas, attitude, and heart, all of which are in short supply at the Cineplex these days. Give it a try.
Take a Drink: anytime someone runs in slo-mo
Take a Drink: whenever you see a spirit/Avatar-thingy
Take a Drink: whenever Shia LaBeouf gets it right in the kisser
Take a Drink: whenever a character does (and/or takes drugs)
Do a Shot: if you also can’t remember where Bucharest is