Monday, February 10, 2014

Film Review: Charlie Countryman

Copyright: VVS Films
Fredrik Bond is obviously a guy that appreciates the visual side of things. In this film, his main character, Charlie a young man from the USA who learns from the ghost of his deceased mother that he should travel to Bucharest, is a person that enters a world of different sights and lights. That world, however, is erected on a very bad script.

In fact, on several occasions Bond doesn’t even bother with the script. Instead, Charlie simply takes drugs or gets beaten up by Romanian thugs, and his experience becomes a music video, followed mostly by Moby music.

It’s not odd that the director is partial to Moby’s song. After all, he did shoot one of his videos called Moby: Play back in the day when Moby was still in the sphere of media existence. This happened in 2004, and after it Bond did (at least according to his IMDb resume) nothing, until somebody gave him the resources to shoot Charlie Countryman. In the last 10 years, his talent didn’t mature, and it looks like Bond perceives film making as a task of adding sporadic conversation to one long music video.

Apart from that, he managed to insult Romania in many beautifully unintentional ways. The first thing Charlie gets to know is the Romanian security apparatus, represented by different hostile police officers and incompetent medics. These are followed by creepy cab drives and hostel owners, who look like really lazy sexual predators. Of course, as the story progresses, he meets the love of his life, apparently one of those rare sophisticated Western Romanians, drowned in the unending pool of charming Third World Country Characters. As someone who actually traveled to Romania and Bucharest, Charlie Countryman reminded me of all those stereotypical ideas that are associated with the former USSR and now with the complete Eastern Europe. It could be set in Sofia, Kiev or any other country in Europe that doesn’t have Paris/London (and possibly Rome), because we all know how crazy those Russians are! Romania entered the European Union in 2007. It’s true that the courtly is still lacking in progress compared to the older members, but it’s still a full EU member state.

I can’t imagine that someone tried to represent the Netherlands or Austria in this shallow, generic and completely uninformed way. The notion itself is hilarious, but apparently not to Bond. In this aspect, the movie works on the same level as the horrendous I Spit On your Grave 2, which uses a Bulgarian setting in the same fashion.

All this could be forgiven if there was any authentic energy present in the film. But there isn’t any. Charlie somewhat unusual ability to see ghosts is forgotten in the first ten minutes of the film, and the love story, wrapped in a thriller is appallingly unmoving. The lights do get brighter when Charlie takes ecstasy, but the film never does. It speeds up and winds down, missing any emotion that could help the audience connect with anything in it. It’s clear that Bond can’t deal even with a single narrative, which isn’t necessarily problematic when you’re making music videos. Films are much more unforgiving, and no amount of groovy pictures can repress that fact.

The biggest mystery is the cast. I get that Shia LaBeouf (who plays Charlie) and Rupert Grint are desperately trying to escape his earlier teen roles, but what are people like Mads Mikkelsen or Vincent D'Onofrio doing here?

I feel like this film tried to become something like The Million Dollar Hotel. It didn’t, but it did get its place right next to the criminally stereotypical films like Euro Trip, minus the occasional laughs.