The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman Review
Or the unnecessary career of Shia La Beouf
It's been a tough few years for Shia La Beouf, who is probably better know for his antics off-screen these days.Since the end of his involvement in the Transformers franchise, the star has been trying to establish himself as a serious actor and has chosen to work with directors and material that interests him. We can't fault some of his choices, he was quite good in David Ayer's Fury and the film's failing are more due to studio interference. He bravely chose to appear in Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac, even if he did deliver the worst cockney accent since Dick Van Dyke. Of course he was also involved in the appalling Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull but at least he had the decency to apologise for the results.However these days he's better known for going to premieres wearing a paper bag over his head with the words 'I'm not famous' written on it. Or getting successfully sued for plagiarism. Or claiming he was raped by a woman at an art installation. Or pulling out teeth and scaring himself for his part in Fury. It's never easy transitioning from a child to an adult as an actor but if The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman proves one thing, it's that La Beouf does have a few decent performances left in him. Well that and the fact that he can run really fast, a skill he no doubt learnt whilst escaping from giant robots.
Apparently the screenplay for The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman was on the Black List of best un-produced screenplays for a while but based on the final result there must have been some changes along the way. What remains plays like a more violent version of the 2004 film Euro Trip, with all the usual cliches and prejudices in place when it comes to how Americans view Europe. The majority of the film takes place in Bucharest and it certainly isn't an advert the Romanian capital, with Charlie surround by dodgy Europeans from the moment he gets on the plane.
The reason he's flying to Bucharest is because he's told to by his dead mother, although there's a running joke that he'd be better off visiting the much safer and nicer Budapest. Quite why Charlie can see his dead mother and others is never really explained - is it a hallucination or is he really interacting with the dead? It makes the film seem more like a grown-up version of The Sixth Sense, which one character in the movie even points out. However the film that The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman most wants to be is True Romance, with its central love story, dangerous characters and excessive violence.
The film plays like a more violent version of Euro Trip with all the usual cliches and prejudices.
The film fails of course because writer Matt Drake is no Quentin Tarantino and director Fredrik Bond is no Tony Scott. However the film is at least well made, with some attractive digital photography and an interesting if rather tonally unbalanced cast. There's Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, 'Hannibal') on his scary best as the main villain and Til Schweiger (Inglorious Basterds) backing him up as another frightening Euro-thug. The gorgeous Evan Rachel Wood (The Wrestler) is the subject of Charlie's obsession whilst Rupert Grint (Harry Potter) and James Buckley (The Inbetweeners) provide comic relief. Although the inclusion of the latter just makes it seem as though Jay has wandered into the wrong film.
We also get Vincent D'Onofrio (The Judge) as Charlie's step-father and Melissa Leo (The Fighter) as his dying and, for that matter, dead mother. It's this latter point that demonstrates why the film ultimately fails. It just doesn't know what it wants to be - flipping between love story and thriller, whilst throwing in comedy and magic-realism along the way. Although the performances are actually quite good, they can't save the film from its own schizophrenic tone. The result is unrewarding and by the time you reach the obvious denouement, you're left wondering what was the point. You'll also end up crossing Bucharest of your list of possible holiday destinations.
You can buy The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman on Blu-ray here
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