Monday 15 June 2015

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman

I don’t think I’m alone in my dislike of Shia LaBeouf. From his mediocre performances in mediocre mainstream films to his downright bizarre and laughably pretentious off-screen behaviour, he’s one of my least favourite people in cinema today. As such, I went into The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman with little hope. Torn apart by the majority of critics and starring Shia in the title role, all the signs were there that this article was already writing itself as a 1-star review. But you know what? I had a damn good time with Charlie Countryman.

Directed by Fredrik Bond and out now on DVD & Blu-Ray comes The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman tells the story of, you guessed it, Charlie Countryman! After his mother passes away, Charlie has a spiritual epiphany in which he is told to go to Bucharest. He isn’t told why, but he’s told that it’s what he should do. It’s an adventure, he’s told. In a vulnerable place, he listens and he goes. One thing leads to another and he meets Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood) there. It’s love at first sight. But Charlie doesn’t know Gabi’s psychopathic and unstable ex-husband Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen) still loves her, and won’t let anyone else have her. It might sound like something you’ve seen before, but it isn’t.

Charlie Countryman has some unexpected twists and turns and is shot in a fantastically well-paced and unique style. It held my attention throughout and took me on a wild ride that I was not expecting. Speaking of unexpected occurrences, Shia LaBeouf delivers a superb performance here. He’s very confident in the role and is clearly giving it his all – while it’s not a performance that will win any awards, it’s more than adequate and far more than we’ve come to expect from Shia. The film belonged to Mikkelsen though, who delivers a downright terrifying performance and manages the impossible - to evoke fear from the name Nigel. Once you’ve met his character for the first time, his presence is felt throughout the rest of the film as you never know when he might show up again. This is effectively reflected in Charlie’s hallucinations of being followed by him. Charlie almost becomes a spectator within the film; the increasingly bad things that happen to him feel like they’re happening to you too. Like James Stewart in Vertigo, we’re almost always with Charlie and experiencing the story unfold with him.

The supporting cast includes some other familiar faces; including Til Schweiger, Melissa Leo, Aubrey Plaza and, briefly, the great Vincent D’Onofrio. But there’s two faces that are particularly familiar with the UK audience – James Buckley, who we all know as Jay from The Inbetweeners and basically just reprising his role here, and Rupert Grint. Playing a pair of British backpackers staying in the Bucharest youth hostel in which Charlie is staying, they bring some ‘lad banter’ to proceedings that feels plucked straight out of one of The Inbetweeners movies. While it was good for a few chuckles, it did feel slightly out of place at times and somewhat unnecessary. On top of this, there are some other little niggling issues in Charlie Countryman. But they are too minor to note. The good outweighs the bad here.

While it’s probably not a film you’ll watch again and certainly not a film to shower with awards, it’s a strong and effective little indie. Charlie Countryman isn’t a perfect film. But for what it is, it’s a damn entertaining couple of hours. Like I said at the beginning of this review, I wasn’t expecting much at all from this film. Hell, I was almost sure I was going to hate it. But it just goes to show you can’t judge a book by its cover. I realise I’m in the minority in my enjoyment of this film, but for me it succeeds as a solid indie film with some great performances, a brilliant electronic soundtrack and a hell of a lot of style. Ignore the hate and put your dislike of LaBeouf to one side. There’s a lot to like here.

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman doesn’t die a cinematic death after all, and earns 4/5.


Sam Love

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