Friday, November 15, 2013

Shia LaBeouf Naked, Drugs, Souls And Traveling Lead To The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman.

The Good: Decent acting, Good pacing
The Bad: Meandering plot, Cuts between scenes are frequently awkward.
The Basics: The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman follows an American in Bucharest where he gets mixed up with a woman and her violent estranged husband.

With a lull in weeks between two of the major studio-released blockbusters, I find my attention once more going to independent cinema. This has been a good year for me and indie films, though I have still not managed to see Adult World and none of the indie films I’ve yet watched have managed to top Bert And Arnie’s Guide To Friendship (reviewed here!). My first indie film of the weekend is The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman, which seems to be dumbed down to Charlie Countryman in the United States.

The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman is one of those independent films with an amazing cast that is not given enough exposure to be considered Oscarbait and it’s surprising that the producers aren’t making more of a push for it. Answering the question of what Rupert Grint has been up to since the ending of The Harry Potter Saga (reviewed here!), The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman has a cast led by Shia LaBeouf and Evan Rachel Wood, supported by Vincent D’Onofrio, Melissa Leo, and Mads Mikkelsen. With such a cast, it is surprising that The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman isn’t being given a push on the off week to get good play. The fact that director Fredrik Bond uses the cast exceptionally well should have gotten it more off-week attention.

Opening with a man hung upside down being cut from his rope to fall into the water below, Charlie Countryman goes with his father to take his mother off life support. After she dies, with Charlie seeing her soul leave her body, he is visited by his mother, who tells him to visit Bucharest when he begs her to give him a specific task to do in his life now that she is dead. En route to Bucharest, Charlie’s seatmate, a Romanian named Victor, strikes up a conversation with Charlie before he dies and after he is dead, he asks Charlie to deliver a hat to his daughter. Freaked out, Charlie tries to recover the hat when it falls off the body and is tazered for his efforts. At the terminal, Charlie meets Gabi, Victor’s daughter and delivers the hat and the message Victor asked him, post-mortem to deliver. Before leaving the terminal, he literally gives Gabi the shirt off his back.

Riding in a cab through Bucharest, Charlie sees Gabi in her car and helps her (basically hijacking her car!) to hunt down an ambulance she was following. The hash-smoking ambulance drivers crash, moments after Gabi and Charlie catch up to it, leaving Victor’s body on the pavement. With Gabi riding with the body after it is recovered, Charlie takes her car and discovers a gun in it. Charlie takes the car and Gabi’s cello to the opera house where she works and there he meets Nigel, her menacing husband whose name was on the gun. Arriving at the Marco Polo youth hostel, Charlie meets Karl (an aspiring porn star) and Luc, who slip him some ecstasy. He is then confronted by Nigel who warns him that friendship with Gabi could be dangerous for him, though he pursues the friendship anyway. As grief, loss, and desire mix with drug hallucinations and fish-out-of-water complications, Charlie’s world blurs and he comes undone.

First and foremost, what sets The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman apart from other films this Oscar Pandering Season is the quality of the acting. Fredrik Bond does not keep the principle actors within their safe zones. Evan Rachel Wood’s Gabi speaks with a heavy accent and she pulls it off in every one of her scenes. Wood’s ability to emote confusion helps sell the cultural differences between Gabi and Charlie better than some of the lines on their own do. Shia LaBeouf, who is unlikely to be considered a great actor by anyone, pulls of a surprisingly deep performance. When LaBeouf’s Charlie meets Wood’s Gabi, the sympathy LaBeouf is able to emote through only his eyes and body language is exceptional. The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman is unlike anything else LaBeouf has done and the performance continues throughout the film to be one that is impressive (and not just for him). LaBeouf actually has some decent charm as Charlie and that carries well on-screen to play as chemistry between him and Wood that sells their relationship.

The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman is not the Oscarbait that Black Swan (reviewed here!) was a few years ago, but there are a number of similarities between that film and this one. In fact, The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman is much like Black Swan meets Lost In Translation (reviewed here!). While The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman has decent performances and characters engaging enough to make the film move along at a generally good pace, the film is aimless in its plotting and the supporting characters remain largely undeveloped.

As well, The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman uses its soundtrack in an annoying way. The film includes several scenes with melodramatic crescendos that make little moments seem much, much bigger than they actually are. Beyond that, there is choppy editing that makes the film less well-assembled than most indie movies.

Still, The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman is a fairly solid film that is shot with a beautiful sense of style. Was Shia LaBeouf’s use of acid necessary to pull off the ecstasy scene? Probably not. Was he convincing? Sure. But given how Fredrik Bond keeps the film moving almost constantly, the brief moment’s performance is easy to overlook amid the frenetic cuts and scenes that lead the viewer back, inevitably, to the beginning. Amid mobsters, sexual tension, and drug hallucinations, The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman becomes a decent, moody, contemplative alternative to this season’s predictable blockbusters.

For other works with Melissa Leo, please check out my reviews of:
Olympus Has Fallen
Red State
Welcome To The Rileys
The L Word - Season Two
Hide And Seek
Homicide: Life On The Street


For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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