Sunday, November 02, 2014


CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN is a strange and fascinating film that feels like it has too many good ideas clashing with each other and shouldn't work and yet somehow does.  It stars Shia Labeouf, but don't let that put you off. His big-eyed naivety plays well here, as the directionless romantic sent to Romania by his dying mother (Melissa Leo).  While there he gets into all sorts of random scrapes, some of which involve taking large quantities of drugs in a youth hostel with Ron Weasley and Jay from THE INBETWEENERS. But the meat of the story is Charlie falling in love with the grieving daughter of the man Charlie sat next to on the  plane. Played with a perfect accent by Evan Rachel Wood, the character of Gabi is perfectly aware that she is a movie trope - immediately asking Charlie if he wants to fall in love with her because she is vulnerable and exotic. She also has that most cliched of movie tropes - a nasty violent ex-husband, played with mordant wit  by Mads Mikkelsen (HANNIBAL).  

It's a movie that can be schmaltzy but is aware of that, and so is undercut by incredibly dark humour. The scenes in the youth hostel are genuinely laugh  out loud funny - I mean, I've never spent time thinking of porn names for Rupert Grint, but Boris Pecker is a work of genius. And some of the exchanges between a completely deadpan Mads Mikkelsen and Shia Labeouf were fantastically funny - just wait for the scene citing Dizzy Gillespie. So kudos to screen-writer Matt Drake for penning such a self-aware, daringly random, and funny script. As for the direction from first time feature helmer Fredrik Bond, it's elegant and particularly good in its use of music. The soundtrack featuring Deadmono is superb.

Like I said, this is an odd film that defies genre descriptions but if you go with it there's more than enough pay off.  Shia is at his most likeable (low baseline I admit), the music is great, Mads Mikkelsen is truly superb and Evan Rachel Wood is heart-breaking. 

CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN aka THE NECESSARY DEATH OF CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN has a running time of 103 minutes and is rated R.  The film played Sundance and Berlin 2013 and was released last year in Norway, the USA, Denmark and Israel. It was released earlier this year in Singapore, Belgium, France, Portugal and Hong Kong. It is currently on release in the UK and Ireland.

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