I’ll start by saying that I’m not a Shia LaBeouf fan. I think he’s a tad overrated, IMO. Maybe it’s the films he chooses – the first three TRANSFORMERS films (definitely not a fan of those) and the fourth INDIANA JONES film (a big disappointment). We are going to see him later again this year alongside Brad Pitt in FURY so he may just prove me wrong.
Unfortunately, CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN is another project that he should have taken a pass on. Here, LaBeouf plays the title character, who flies to Bucharest after he has vision of his dying mother who tells him to go there. Yes, THAT Bucharest. My grandfather was born in Romania but even I wouldn’t go there if he came to me in a vision. Charlie, though, talks to dead people with some regularity, it seems, and listens to what the spirits tell him. Granted, most of the time when they do talk to him, Charlie is under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both but let’s not quibble about that.
No sooner does his plane touch down at airport, Charlie finds himself brushing up against the law. Apparently, Romanians are a surly bunch, who don’t take too kindly to buffoonish, scruffy Americans telling them what to do. The authorities eventually let Charlie leave the airport and, on the way out, he meets Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood), a mysterious cellist for the National Opera whose elderly father, Victor, was sitting next to Charlie on the flight over. (Victor dies en route but he gets to speak to Charlie from the afterlife too.) Charlie is immediately attracted to Gabi and he proceeds to insert himself into her life. However, Gabi’s no-nonsense gangster husband, Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen), won’t let his wife out of his grasp so easily.
The story thankfully moves along at a fairly fast clip with Charlie running through the streets, back alleys, subways and rooftops of Bucharest, and getting pummelled by both Nigel and Darko (Til Schweiger), another underworld character, on separate occasions. Maybe it’s just me but if I was brutally beaten up three times and hit by a car once in such a short period of time, I don’t think I would have the strength to keep running. We’re given a bit of comic relief from two more buffoonish characters, Luc (James Buckley) and Karl (Rupert Grint), who befriend Charlie at the hostel and take him on a couple of Carpathian Ecstasy-fueled trips – one of them that includes a jaunt to a girlie bar that just happens to be owned by Darko.
The film is directed by first-timer Fredrik Bond, whose body of work consists of a short film and a Moby DVD. That would explain why Moby’s music fills most of the film’s soundtrack. Unfortunately, the music sits on the film like a lead weight – it’s too loud and too stylized for a film whose story is just not very compelling. Call Charlie a free spirit, a lost soul or a slacker. Whichever one it is, we just don’t care what happens to him. The same goes for Gabi. Sure, she’s nice to look at but she did, after all, fall in love with and marry a psycho. Maybe Bond should do a film about Luc and Karl, who were far more interesting characters to watch. He could call the film DUMB AND DUMBER DO EASTERN EUROPE.