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Movie Reviews by Michael Phillips
"Charlie Countryman" is a modestly ambitious psychological movie thriller with a romantic streak. Not a "safe" star vehicle in the mix. So give Shia LaBeouf some credit for guts and ambition.
Charlie (LaBeouf) is on hand to watch as his mother (Melissa Leo) is taken off life support in the hospital. But even after dying, she's not done teaching him: "Go to ... Bucharest."
Is she sure? He isn't. Nor is anybody else.
"You don't mean Budapest?" It's a running gag in the movie.
The Hungarian capital is cute, touristy. The Romanian capital Bucharest, as Charlie quickly learns, is something else.
He meets a charming old Romanian on the flight. The old man jokes around with him, dozes off and dies. He, too, communicates with Charlie post mortem. Give this hat to my daughter, tell her this phrase in Romanian.
Charlie is tased, arrested and hassled to beat the band when he does. Even if that daughter, Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood), is worth the trouble, this is the other side of Romania -- thuggish, confrontational, callous. The shady men who know Gabi (Mads Mikkelsen, Til Schweiger) are menacing in the extreme. "God knows, it can all turn into blood in the blink of an eye," Nigel (Mikkelsen) purrs.
On the other hand, there are the amusing Brit stoners (James Buckley, Rupert Grint) Charlie meets at the youth hostel.
They're all about popping pills and voting on what "shared hallucinations" they all should have in this Eastern bloc Sin City.
Music video vet Fredrik Bond ably shows off the seamy side of Bucharest. But the script is too reliant on coincidences and showing the insane lengths Charlie goes to in order to prove how smitten he is with the beguiling cellist, Gabi.
LaBeouf is less manic and boyish here, giving a performance stripped of the smart-kid patter of much of his work.
He does less with more, even as he's taking ferocious beatings. Wood, slinging an accent, is well-cast in any role that demands jet-black eye makeup and a wounded scowl.
The bad guys really stand out, with Mikkelsen pulling off something he never managed as a Bond villain. He's genuinely frightening.
"Charlie Countryman" is not a graceful movie, with hints of characters trimmed down, themes launched (talking to ghosts, Charlie's fearful inability to love) and abandoned.
But it works well enough. And it's a fascinating shot in the dark for a star who is making interesting choices with his stardom, and going to exotic places as he does.
Even if he meant to go to Budapest.
Film Critic Rating: 2.5 out of 4 Stars
MPAA rating: R (for some brutal violence, language throughout, sexuality/nudity and drug use)
Running time: 1:43
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Melissa Leo, Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelsen, Til Schweiger
Directed by Fredrik Bond
Charlie Countryman Movie Trailer
About "Charlie Countryman" the Movie
When his late mother appears in a vision and tells him to go to Bucharest, Charlie immediately boards a plane across the Atlantic. But when he meets a fellow passenger, Charlie finds himself with another promise to fulfill.
A footloose young man must undergo a dark and brutal trial by fire to save the love of his life in this flashy, violent adventure saga from Fredrik Bond, a celebrated director of television commercials.
American Charlie Countryman's (Shia LaBeouf) heart breaks as his mother (Melissa Leo) dies in the hospital, but seconds after her death, she reappears to him in spirit form and implores him to visit Bucharest, Romania.
On the plane, he strikes up a conversation with an enigmatic stranger, who dies in mid-flight; not long after, Charlie crosses paths with the man's daughter, beautiful cellist Gabi Banyai (Evan Rachel Wood). The two quickly grow smitten with one another and begin an affair, but there are complications afoot, including Gabi's marriage to a dissolute, psychopathic Romanian drug dealer named Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen) and one of his associates, mobster and strip-club owner Darko (Til Schweiger) -- each of whom despises Charlie and wants to see him dead.
A recklessness overcomes Charlie, however, and he soon reveals that he's willing to do anything to claim Gabi, even if it means putting his very life on the line at the hands of these thugs.