A very engaging film.
Penned by Project X scriptwriter, Matt Drake, with direction from first-timer, Fredrik Bond; Charlie Countryman, boasts some very talented thespians in this low-budget, Romanian-shot affair. It tells the story of Charlie, a twentysomething guy who has just lost his mother, Katie (Melissa Leo), and after seeing her spirit leave her body, she then pays him a visit while he’s grieving in the hospital corridor. He doesn’t know what to do with his life but Katie tells him to visit Bucharest.
On the plane from Chicago to Bucharest, Charlie meets a Romanian man, Victor (Ion Caramitru), who mentions he has a daughter, Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood), and has purchased her a ridiculous-looking hat as a memento. Victor dies on the plane but his ghost (?) briefly makes contact with Charlie to ask him to find Gabi and give her the hat, along with a message. Charlie finds the beautiful Gabi and instantly falls for the grieving daughter, but her life involves a psycho ex-husband, Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen), who makes it clear that Charlie should stay away from Gabi, plus Nigel has unfinished business with the dead, Victor. Charlie finds himself in real danger trying to help Gabi get away from a psychotic Nigel and runs into some interesting characters along the way.
On arrival in Bucharest, Charlie checks in to a youth hostel where his roomies are Karl (Rupert Grint) and Luc (James Buckley), who enjoy nothing more than partaking in various drugs. At one point they slip ecstasy into Charlie’s beer (LaBeouf actually took LSD to better understand how to act out this scene), and is then threatened in a toilet by Nigel while he’s tripping. Nigel pops up more frequently and to Mikkelson’s credit, is always menacing; owning each scene he’s in.
Grint’s Karl and Buckley’s Luc serve as comic relief in this gritty romantic action flick with a moderate amount of success. This is the first I’ve seen of Rupert Grint since the Harry Potter money machine ended, but he appears to be busy for the foreseeable future.
I think I’ve seen most of LaBeouf’s movies and admittedly have enjoyed almost all of them, but as for Mr LaBeouf himself, I’ve never taken to him at all. He’s a decent actor and has undoubted presence, yet appears to be an acquired taste that’s beyond my capabilities to like. He reminds me of a thing my old gramps would say about such a person. “He has a kind face; the kind I’d like to smack around.”
Even though the pacing was a touch slow in the middle act, it was far from boring and I found the entire affair rather engaging. Charlie Countryman, wasn’t the most fluid film I’ve ever seen but the violent last act was well worth the effort and investment. Each of the performances were good with Mads Mikkelsen’s Nigel stealing the show. It would’ve been nice to have Charlie’s “I see dead people” routine better explained but it just added to the kinda Donnie Darko-like feel this movie had, with not only the soundtrack, but also having a character named, Darko, in the film. I’m sure this was a nod to that classic bit of cinema.