‘Charlie Countryman’: Shia LaBeouf, sex, drugs and tedium
By BRUCE INGRAM For Sun-Times Media November 14, 2013 11:00AM
‘CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN’ ★1⁄2
Charlie Shia LaBeouf
Gabi Evan Rachel Wood
Nigel Mads Mikkelsen
Victor Ian Caramitru
Millennium Entertainment presents a film directed by Fredrik Bond and written by Matt Drake. Running time: 107 minutes. Rated R (for some brutal violence, language throughout, sexuality/nudity and drug use). Opens Friday at AMC South Barrington and on video on demand.
Ah, Bucharest. That exotic, Eastern European hotbed of romance, intrigue and hefty film-production tax breaks.
The latter is the most likely reason why this wildly improbable and maddeningly tedious (despite regular infusions of drugs, sex and violence) crime thriller/romance was set there. A recommendation by the ghost of the main character’s mother might also have had something to do with it.
“Go to Bucharest,” says recently expired mom (Melissa Leo) to grieving young Charlie Countryman (Shia LaBeouf, substituting rabbity diffidence for his usual smart-aleck persona), when he asks for specific advice about what to do with the rest of his life. Why Bucharest, mom? “It seems specific,” she explains.
We find out later she was thinking of Budapest, but that doesn’t matter because Charlie’s off, leaving Chicago behind and taking nothing with him but his ponytail, his scraggly goatee and his perpetually baffled expression. On the plane, Charlie makes the acquaintance of an eccentric, middle-aged Romanian (Ion Caramitru), who also promptly dies and gives him further instructions — to find his daughter and give her the wacky hat he bought for her in Chicago.
He does find daughter Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood of HBO’s “True Blood”), a dark-eyed beauty who plays cello at the Bucharest Opera House and has credibility-straining connections to a couple of brutally ruthless gangsters. One is ominous ex-husband Nigel (Mads Mikkelson of NBC’s “Hannibal”), who’s after incriminating videotape Gabi’s father used to keep him away from her.
Sound exciting? Well, maybe it might have been if “Charlie Countryman” wasn’t stocked with such a dull collection of unlikable, paper-thin characters, all of them stuck in a story that has nowhere interesting to go. Just to keep things moving, TV-commercial director Fredrik Bond and screenwriter Matt Drake (the raunchy teen comedy “Project X”) conspire to have Charlie beaten, tasered, hit by a car and dosed with Ecstasy —and toss in lots of unwholesome comic relief courtesy of Charlie’s drug-addled hostel roommates (James Buckley and “Harry Potter” alum Rupert Grint).
Charlie doesn’t mind, though, because he’s in love, love, love and, despite the pain and punishment, apparently having a wonderful time. Anyone watching is highly unlikely to feel the same way.