Sundance Review: 'The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman'

There is nothing necessary about this movie.

"The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman," which made its debut at the allegedly selective Sundance Film Festival, is a pastiche of bad film cliches and scenes devoid of any real conflict or character development. There are trace elements of a story and sequences that may as well have simply been index cards that read "Insert drama here." The only thing this movie is really good for is making you feel much better about whatever creative work you are doing in your own life. Seriously, that cross-stitch you made with your great aunt at the senior center has more vitality and worth than this immature work of garbage.

Many people will hurl their proverbial rotten tomatoes at lead actor Shia LaBeouf, but it's not entirely his fault. And, when cast correctly, like in the pretty good movie "Lawless," he can be quite winning on screen. The ridicule must go toward television commercial director Fredrik Bond. The man may know how to sell a luxury automobile, but he knows nothing about telling a story or working with actors. His method seems to be, "When in doubt, have people run through the street and blast some Sigur Ros or M83."

Why are people running through the streets? Well, young Charlie's mother dies and, because he can commune with the dead, she tells him to go to Bucharest. (This ability is a conceit that pops up at the beginning of the film and then disappears, which is probably a case of uneven concepts being held over from earlier drafts of the script.) We learn at the end that, ha ha, she meant Budapest, but we still never learn why she wants him to go to ANYpest. But I'll tell you why. Because Romania (where Bucharest is, you numbskull) has a tremendous tax break on film production, that's why. Pardon me, I need a quick drink.

Charlie goes to Bucharest and meets a Zorba-esque foreigner on the plane. Charlie's seatmate dies in his sleep, but Charlie manages to meet his daughter at the airport. Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood) is a beautiful young cellist in the national orchestra. She's also tied up with mob guys because all national orchestra cellists are hot damsels in distress and madonna/whores who need big strapping American men to come save them. (This one gets Shia LaBeouf, though.)

Charlie's in love, though, so he'll stop at nothing to protect this young lass, but Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen, ready at a moment's notice to take the baton from Rutger Hauer to play every single generic European baddie) and his cronies WANT THAT TAPE! (Yes, there's, like, a tape with incriminating stuff on it. Hold on, I have to refill my drink.)

Charlie's two hostel-mates are played by Rupert Grint and James Buckley, and they have some decent comic timing. Indeed, the only part of the movie where I wasn't softly moaning "Uggghhh" and "Hellllp" and "Pleeeease end" were when the two were zinging against a bad guy who was threatening them. (E.G. "How will I be able to contact you if you cut off my head?") Oh, it was completely preposterous and voided any believability, but with the accents it's funny.

Never in "The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman" do you understand just why our hero is compelled to go on this adventure, despite endless intrusive voice over from poor John Hurt. I do know what the streets of Bucharest look like as people are chased around in slow motion to the thunderous beats of synthesizer rock, however. Because I saw that gag at least five times.

Mother said that if I don't have anything nice to say I shouldn't say anything at all. But considering the ostentatious editing, purple dialogue and rote characters in "The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman," if I stuck to that rule this review would be exactly zero words. Though, frankly, that's about all it deserves.

Grade: F