Sunday, February 15, 2009

The International

There's much about The International that works, and almost as much that doesn't. Still, for a mid-February release it's much better than expected and one of the few films of the new year worth a look.

Clive Owen stars as an Interpol agent obsessed with bringing down a bank which does shady dealings with both world governments and criminal organizations. Naomi Watts stars as his deskbound partner who, as is often the case in these types of films, hits the streets with him to bring down the bad guys.

Who are these evil-doers he's willing to risk his life and career to stop? Well, they're bankers. Um...yeah. As movie baddies go evil bankers ranks slightly below evil party clowns and Elvis impersonators.

Thankfully we're given Owen who raises the bar here by elevating the script and infusing the character with an obsession both palpatable and a little out of control.

The rest of the cast isn't quite up to the challenge. Watts is Watts (meaning she's mildly annoying me throughout the film). I don't completely blame her as she's stuck with the far less interesting piece of this buddy team-up.

One of the major problems here is the lack of a movie-sized villain. What we're given is a mysterious hitman (Brian F O'Byrne), whose role should have been expanded, and a bunch of pretty uninteresting bankers.

It doesn't help that the actual nefarious plot these bankers are responsible for is both overly-complex and convoluted. The script's attempt to also make it mysterious only proves to make it more confusing.

From my comments so far you might expect that I hated the film (other than Owen's performance). That's not the case. Though filled with both script problems and an ending that many movie goers may rebel against for its ambivalence, there are pieces which work well.

The film, proving good to its name, gives us several locations around the world. Each are framed, lighted, and shot beautifully, and the look of the film is marvelous! This alone makes the film worth watching not just once, but multiple times.

There are also some impressive stunt sequences including one in the Guggenheim museum and one racing through Italian markets. And, thankfully, we get to see these as the film stock isn't cut and pasted within an inch of its life (see Taken).

The International is a flawed film but with impressive locations, good action scenes, and a character Clive Owen can sink his teeth in, it's better than I expected for a mid-February release. Fans of the genre may want to check it out.

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