SHIA LEBEOUF EVAN RACHEL WOOD MADS MIKKELSEN MELISSA LEO RUPERT GRINT
Most filmmakers begin with short projects like short films or music videos. Those directors who come from the music video world are often more focused on the look, style and, of course, the music and sound of the film. This is the case for Fredrik Bond, first time feature film director of Charlie Counryman. This film takes entire chunks and processes them to feel like their own individual music videos: Shia running, Shia fighting, and so on. It’s shot on location in Bucharest, Romania, where it takes place and the bright shining colors and orbs reflecting against the camera seem to convey a trippy, dance floor type of crime vibe as we watch a young man try to find love and happiness after the death of his mother.
After his mother (Leo) passes away, Charlie (LeBeouf) speaks with her spirit in the hallway of the hospital. She tells him a lot of stuff, but she also tells him to go to Bucharest, and so he goes. On the plane ride he sits next to a man from Bucharest traveling home who speaks of his daughter and then, midway through the flight, dies. Filled with more grief than when he started his journey, Charlie meets with the daughter (Wood) to explain the circumstances and feels intensely drawn to her. What Charlie fails to understand is that not only was the father on the plane mixed up in nasty Romanian drug and mob violence, but he is about to disrupt an entire chain of crime that will have every criminal in the city chasing after him.
I liked this movie better when it was called Birthday Girl and starred Nicole Kidman. Of course, not even Kidman’s film is the first time a foreign director has attempted to reinvent the psychedelic, criminally charged thriller with a famous name, or in this case, some pretty fantastic actors. Both Mikkelson (The Hunt) and Leo (Prisoners) are coming off two stellar performances this year. Add in the fan following of Rupert Grint (Harry Potter) and one might think this film had something to it. It’s the inexperience of the director and script by Matt Drake (Project X) that feels so amateur that you will wonder just how they got the talent for this project.
The story is reduced to nothing more than a boy chasing a girl who is pushing him away to save and spare his life (see virtually every fourth film ever made for examples of this). Charlie Countryman dotes on style and never substance, which makes for an excruciating narrative that will spend long moments as Charlie is beaten to a pulp, but little time with developing a character we understand. Some films are creative enough to allow the audience to fill in the necessary plot holes and enjoy the visuals on screen, but this is not one of those films.
Final Thought – Looks and sounds like a music video, but calls itself a feature.
Grade C- By: Dustin Chase