'Charlie Countryman' Movie Review | Movie Reviews Site
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"Charlie Countryman" Movie Review: 2 1/2 Stars

by Michael Phillips

Here's what Shia LaBeouf has been up to since finishing his turn in the "Transformers" franchise:

He made "The Company You Keep," a high-minded thriller with Robert Redford. There was "Lawless," the Prohibition-era action picture with Tom Hardy. He's in Lars Von Trier's "Nymphomaniac."

And now there's "Charlie Countryman," a modestly ambitious psychological thriller with a romantic streak. Not a "safe" star vehicle in the mix. So give him 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.


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"Charlie Countryman" Movie Trailer

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.


MPAA rating: R (for some brutal violence, language throughout, sexuality/nudity and drug use)

Running time: 1:43



Article: Copyright © 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.





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