Charlie Countryman (2013)

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I only had the opportunity to see this yesterday, it being released nearly a year after the States received it. Maybe there was a reason for the huge wait because it will certainly not appeal to all tastes. It’s so clear this is a festival kind of movie, it premiered at Sundance and since then hasn’t had great reviews, which I agree with to a point. It’s a nonsense hollow script but I did love the art direction of the film and it’s well acted.

In Chicago lives Charlie Countryman (Shia LeBeouf), the film opens with him seeing his mother Kate (Melissa Leo) pass away but she soon appears to him as a ghost and tells him to live an adventure in Bucharest. Thanks mum! On the flight he meets a man who gets Charlie wrapped up in another adventure concerning his cellist daughter Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood) and it isn’t long before Charlie falls for her even if she’s linked in with the murky Romanian underworld and a brutish husband with a silly common name like Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen).

The strongest element of this film, I believe, has to be found in the strengths of LeBeouf’s role. It’s clear he’s loving the character and the adventurous roller-coaster trip Charlie goes on. It kind of pains me to compliment the man considering what a jerk he seems and the whole paper bag debacle but he is fantastic in this film. The emotions that he journeys on are utterly believable and he can cry easily, have that smarmy grin and his drug induced night is very well acted. The bond between him and Wood is a strong one and however Romeo and Juliet like the script may be, you do feel that they desire one another.

There’s good amounts of slow motion used in the film, utilised to bring home the dramatic tension more, it never gets tedious, it perhaps feels arty pretentious to have it but in some cases it works well. The chase is masterfully performed and shot and the slow mo underground face off is a cheeky little use to show off Charlie’s outwitting move. It’s clear it’s an arty film, with music and shots blending together to make the entire film feel polished and different.

On this note, the movie is one that relishes in translating this Romanian crime scene as sometimes magical and sometimes nightmarish. It’s true to comment that the film does feel like a surreal dream sequence for the most part. It’s a lulling film that makes you feel sleepy watching it, I don’t know if that’s what they were aiming for but that’s how I felt now and then sitting in that cinema screen by myself. I think the writing lets it down just because it’s so romantic cliched and there’s no real outstanding drama or twist to entice you.

There are gripping moments to be fair but it feels like Matt Drake, the writer was trying too hard to be arty farty, it’s a pretentious feeling film and sometimes weird is good but the beginning death talks and the bad use of CGI spirit wafting doesn’t help. It’s annoying too at times, the inclusion of Rupert Grint and James Buckley didn’t do anything for me. It felt indulgent trying to have some British lads on tour humour in there, it didn’t fit with the film and there subplot made no difference.

A sometimes good mix of drama, adventure and romance but it loses track in a careering maddening hazy trip down Surrealville. Shia is very good at angst and emoting hard to gain love, but apart from that and a somewhat effective arty backdrop this film can feel hipster-ish and messy. Watchable though.

6/10

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