Charlie Countryman (Fredrik Bond, 2013)

During an instance of awful introductory exposition, Charlie Countryman opens mere minutes before the titular character’s (Shia LeBeouf) mother is taken off of life support. Following a cloying hallucinatory episode, Charlie takes an impromptu trip to Bucharest, Romania of all places if only to clear his head, that is until a morbid act of fate links him with the beautiful but existential baggage-laden Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood). As a chance meeting evolves into a questionable relationship, Charlie’s involvement with Gabi grabs the attention of her overbearing and physically daunting ex-husband, Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen) – an individual that promptly and often poses a threat to Charlie’s very existence.

Noticeably hampered by the bizarre empathy card it plays in an attempt to tenuously link the two central characters, death is – as you may have gathered from the film’s working title – a central theme if one that’s as negligible as a majority of what Charlie Countryman has to offer. Even still, this blatant nonadherence would be forgivable if first-time director Bond’s obnoxious technical flourishes weren’t so overbearing, a pseudo-evocative musical score achieving very little by way of desired effect as all that’s left to admire is the film’s core chemistry between its leads.

While almost finding but a mere morsel of solace in said relationship, even this is tarnished thanks to Charlie’s self-destructive behavior and naivety regarding his pursuit of Gabi. Although the aforementioned chemistry is there and bolstered by two strong performances, Charlie Countryman‘s script is still rendered insubstantial by way of cliche mobster implications, i.e. many an instance of “Do you know who you’re dealing with?”-type bullshit that reiterates what we know for approximately 100 minutes – the men Charlie’s crossing are dangerous. Even still, our man foolishly pursues the red-haired Romanian beauty with all the aplomb of someone who has gravely misunderstood what life had planned for him.

As flashes of potential offer little in the realm of its retribution, it’s very hard to pitch Charlie Countryman as anything but an inappropriately self-assured mess devoid of compelling substance and likable characters. Mood is often forced upon viewers – something that becomes particularly awkward and tiresome, especially when there’s nothing to care about – and the contributing “style” Bond attempts to offer up serves to smother you in a wet, bombast-soaked blanket. I’m sure some people will find themselves inherently captivated by one thing or another, however Charlie Countryman isn’t at all a debut neither director nor writer should be proud to flaunt as a means of exhibiting their still dormant talents.


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