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The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman

Sundance 2013 Review

Millennium Entertainment; 108 minutes

Director: Fredrik Bond

Written by on January 22, 2013 

Point in fact, very little is necessary about Fredrik Bond‘s mostly dreadful feature debut The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman. Starring Shia LaBeouf as the titular Charlie and Evan Rachel Wood as the young woman from Bucarest who steals his heart, Countryman is a visually and audibly distracted aggravation of a movie, constantly searching for a reason to keep going and constantly failing to make a valid case for itself.

The basic gist of this disaster is that Charlie’s mom has just died, so he decides to go to Bucharest to “find himself.” In the process, he falls in love with a mysterious woman named Gabi (Rachel Wood) who’s still married to an abusive gangster named Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen). What follows is some version of the star-crossed lover story, with a lot of drugs and nudity and Sigur Ros and M83 music.

Bond comes from a career of big, expensive commercials, and it shows here. His first picture is a manic one, never taking a moment to sit still and let any one performance stew or grow. The special effects are tossed about aplenty, and slow motion is used like a band-aid over and over and over again. The villains (Mikkelsen and Til Schweiger) are offensively one-note, allowed only to be purely evil. Rupert Grint also makes a glorified cameo appearance as a very stupid traveller who decides to take 5 or 6 Viagra, because why not?

The screenplay, written by Matt Drake, was on the 2007 Black List, and while most every line and situation feels processed by the early-90s-Tarantino-Rodriguez-hip-cool machine, it makes sense. There is a lot going on here, from a subplot in a violent strip club to an overly-long acid trip to a recurring device which allows Charlie to speak to dead people (including his mother Melissa Leo in an utterly wasted role). And yet, every opportunity for either envelope-pushing exploitation or exploratory creative abstraction is wasted by Bond, who seems more concerned with the pop music and color tones populating his film than anything else.

Bond’s film is seeping with cult expectation, making all the same moves as something like The Boondock Saints, a glorified Tarantino knock-off that is embraced by those who have not fully dug into the world of film. This formula essentially amounts to sex and violence replacing pomp and circumstance, wrapped in one BIG idea in order to make it all seem important. In the case of Charlie Countryman, that BIG idea is love. We are reminded of this again and again by our narrator, a slumming John Hurt. There’s even a moment where someone references the line, “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

The chemistry between LaBeouf and Wood is lacking throughout, and Mikkelsen has never been worse. The performer, usually the saving grace of schlockly fare like this, looks bored, sleepwalking through every scene.

Better to have not seen The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, than to have wasted 2 hours of your life.


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