Magazine article Screen International

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman

Magazine article Screen International

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman

Article excerpt

Dir: Fredrik Bond. US. 2013. 108mins

Shot in Bucharest, The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman is a disjointed odyssey and not a rousing commercial for its lead actor, Shia LaBeouf. The film, a first feature by commercials maker Fredrik Bond, is an overwrought parable that will test the loyalty of LaBeouf's fans.

Production values are high, with tactile filming reminiscent of Danny Boyle's Trainspotting and logistically deft chases turn the Bucharest subway into a futuristic battleground.

Deploying every cliché about Romania (Dracula's accent seems to have been the standard for dialogue), the film insults one of its obvious markets. Interest outside the US and Romania will depend on the Labeouf mystique, although Mads Mikkelsen in the role of a violent thug could help the film in Europe.

Despite that, the film's comic-book exoticism and relentless violence could still fuel a cult following for Charlie Countryman, with the right promotion.

The saga opens with the upended mutilated body of young Charlie Countryman (LaBeouf) on a rope - one of many Christ references. The narrative goes back in time to the bizarre wish of Charlie's dying mother (Melissa Leo) that he visit Bucharest. As an avuncular voice-over by John Hurt tries to tell us what all this means, Charlie's adventures unfold - a voluble Rumanian man dies in the seat next to him on the plane; police arrest Charlie when his plane lands: the dead man's anguished daughter, Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood), has a violent sadistic ex, Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen), who wants to kill Charlie; two Brits at a hostel take Charlie to a sex club. The trail of adventures and violence crawls through the Rumanian capital.

Bond, directing a script that Matt Drake based on his experiences teaching school there, presents the picaresque episodes like a series of long commercials. To say that the result is incoherent is like saying that Romania is struggling with financial problems. It's not even clear why LaBeouf's character is called Charlie Countryman.

This is a film filled with paradoxes. Bespeaking confidence (and the flair of a displaced wise guy from early Scorsese), LeBeouf's long dark hair is slicked back. Yet he's no tough guy. Charlie is a punching bag for anyone who wants to hit him, and in this film Romania is a country of hit men and enforcers, many of whom wear uniforms. …

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