Shia LaBeouf stars as a young American called Charlie Countryman, whose mom (Melissa Leo) dies, and tells him from beyond the grave to travel abroad, go to Bucharest.
On the plane there, a middle-aged Romanian guy (Ion Caramitru) sitting next to Charlie starts a conversation then promptly dies too, and tells him from beyond the grave to give a silly hat to his beautiful cello-playing daughter Gabi Ibanescu (Evan Rachel Wood).
This gets Charlie into an immense amount of trouble, especially with Gabi’s violent, charismatic ex who is unfortunately called Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen). Charlie’s death certainly looks necessary.
There are some very good things about this odd film, especially the actors, locations, set-ups and zesty handling. But Matt Drake’s screenplay is an ambitious mess, and it gets more frantic and gradually worse as it goes along, making the 103-minute running time seem like 133 minutes. With lots happening, much of it quite nasty and extreme, it’s plenty weird – but not in a good way. Fredrik Bond tires to make it exciting but his inexperience as director shows.
With his troubled, doleful looks and sprightly athletic chasing about, LaBeouf is good, giving a solid, winning performance that shows what he can do even in tricky situations like this. Mikkelsen is appropriately scary, and so is Til Schweiger as the evil Darko. But both these actors have lengthy but rotten star support roles, and deserve much better work. It’s hard to imagine why Gabi would reject the magnetic Nigel on this evidence. A different, less charismatic actor might have made this more credible.
Rupert Grint from Harry Potter and James Buckley from The Inbetweeners Movie are completely chucked away in non-roles as blokes Charlie meets in a hostel, especially Grint, who seems hardly there, though Buckley tries to raise laughs. Vincent D’Onofrio has nothing to do either. What a waste!
© Derek Winnert 2014 Movie Review
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