Director: Fredrik Bond
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelsen, Rupert Grint, James Buckley, Til Schweiger, Melissa Leo
Plot: When Charlie Countryman’s (LaeBeouf) mother dies, he takes a spur-of-the-moment trip to Bucharest, where he is thrown into a deadly cat and mouse game with a deadly gangster over a pretty cello player, Gabi (Rachel Wood).
Charlie Countryman is a man without a path. On his mother’s deathbed, he decides to head to Bucharest to find himself and finally make something of his life. On the plane, he makes friends with an elderly Romanian, who passes away in his sleep, next to Charlie. As the plane lands in Bucharest, Charlie finds himself drawn to the man’s daughter, Gabi. As he makes his way through Bucharest, several chance encounters with the beautiful and enigmatic Gabi result in Charlie falling in love with her. However, this draws him into the firing line of the incredibly dangerous, Nigel, a psychotic gangster, who is back to town, determined to win Gabi’s, his ex-wife, heart back. Charlie knows he should just turn back and move out of Bucharest, but his gut tells him that this is the destiny he has been looking for and he cannot bring himself to abandon the girl of his dreams with this monstrous man. The trailer for The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman really gripped me. It looked fantastic with a fresh directional style and an intense sense of action and tension. The final result was a bit of a let-down, but not as complete a disaster as the critics want you to believe.
The problem is this eerie magical realism thing the movie is so determined to have. Most of Charlie Countryman’s major decisions come from conversations he has with dead people while he is high. His mother tells him to go to Bucharest in a vision and the father of Gabi pretty much sets up his first meeting with the girl he falls in love with. We are never sure what the director wants us to believe is happening. Is this the flimsy fate of destiny, the smallest and oddest occurrences factoring into our fate? Or perhaps this is one of those films where nothing is meant to come across as real? Gabi turns to our hero at one point and asks him if this adventure of his is a fantasy playing out in his head. Later on, he shrugs off getting hit by a car, the moment where I become convinced this was an ‘it’s all in his head’ movie. As a result, it is so much harder to take anything seriously. For the first half of the movie, Charlie Countryman literally has his hand held throughout the plot and it is frustratingly hard to bond with the character. Shia LaBeouf perhaps takes the clueless backpacker role too seriously, so that when it becomes time to empathise with the character, it is too late in the day to truly like him. However, at the same time, sometimes that Indie surrealism works, making Charlie Countryman a rather good movie. A scene where Rupert Grint (an actor looking at turning to porn), and James Buckley (copying and pasting his role from the Inbetweeners, but he is just too funny to criticise him for it), wander into a strip club is comedy gold, the drug-addled eeriness of it all exactly what this scene needs. The ending twenty minutes are particularly good, because the action scenes are injected with a terrific soundtrack, taking some rote slow-mo chase scenes and making them eye-catching pieces of brilliance. Yes, I liked the surreal style in places, but it just bleeds into the exposition a little too much, making the tension hard to take seriously.
But nothing can take away from Mad Mikkelsen’s performance. God, the actor is a dream to watch, tearing into his dialogue, but always keeping that calm sophistication that makes him one of the most chilling bad guy actors we have in the cinemas at the moment. He takes that smooth edge that he shows off in Casino Royale, but there is a sense that he could go full Hannibal at any moment, as he walks a fine line between collected mastermind and unhinged psychopath. The script suggest that the performance might go off the rails at any moment; the writers seem a little too fascinated with making Mads Mikkelsen say the C Word. However, no matter how odd the film gets, Mikkelsen keeps it grounded, making this film one to see for anyone who just wants to watch the actor be awesome. He might have a little too much swearing to wade through, but every now and again, he is given the perfect line, the kind of dialogue you just want handed to the actor, so he can light up the movie. There are other times, when he doesn’t even need a script to show us how great he is. The scene where he chases after a car will stick forever in my mind: that murderous look of hate cutting right through my body.
Final Verdict: Charlie Countryman is a little too surreal to be as good a film as it could be, but it still packs enough of a punch to recommend.