The Tourist is about as difficult to get through as spotting the vowels in the name of its director. Florian Henckel von Donnersmark was last seen receiving a Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007 for The Lives of Others which was about a couple living in East Berlin who were being monitored by the police of the German Democratic Republic. Its positive reception made way for the assumption that Donnersmark would continue to populate the USA with films of seemingly otherworldly and underrepresented themes. But his current project is saddening in its superficiality and total implausibility.
The film’s only real upside is its stars: two of our most prized Americans. Johnny Depp plays Frank Tupelo a math teacher from Wisconsin who travels to Europe after his wife leaves him presumably because of his weakness and simplicity. While en route to Venice he meets Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) who situates herself in his company after she receives a letter from her criminal lover Alexander Pearce (who stole some billions from a very wealthy Russian and the British government) with instructions to find someone on a train who looks like him and make the police believe that he is the real Alexander Pearce to throw the authorities and the Russians off his track. Elise picks Frank and after they are photographed kissing each other on the balcony of Elise’s hotel everyone begins to believe Frank is the real Pearce and so begins the chase.
While Donnersmark could not have picked two better looking people to film roaming around Venice his lack of faith in the audience is obvious. Every aspect of the characters is hammed up again and again as if Donnersmark felt burdened with the task of making us see his vision. Doubtful that we’re capable of getting to where he wants us he has crafted a movie completely devoid of subtlety. Elise’s strength and superiority over Frank are portrayed by close-ups and repeated instances of men burping up their lungs upon seeing her (as if her beauty is in any way subjective?). And in case we forgot that Frank is the victim in this story -- even though he’s been tricked chased and shot at - Donnersmark still felt the need to pin him with a lame electronic cigarette to puff on. Frank and Elise somehow manage to lack mystery even though we get very few factual details about each of them.
Nothing extraordinary comes to us in the way of the film’s structural elements either. There is very little of the action that The Tourist’s marketing led us to believe and the dialog is often painful. The plot itself is almost shockingly unbelievable especially when we’re asked to believe that Elise falls in love with Frank after a combination of kissing him once and her disclosed habit of swooning over men she only spent an hour with (yes that was on her CV).
The Tourist is rather empty and cosmetic. It’s worth seeing if you’re a superfan of Jolie or Depp but don’t expect to walk out of the theater with anything more than the stub you came in with.
In one fleeting moment L.A. firefighter Gordy Brewer (Schwarzenegger) loses everything he ever cared about. Running late to meet his wife and young son at a downtown high-rise the devoted family man arrives in time to witness his family instantly killed by a terrorist bomb that blows up the building. The explosion is credited to Claudio Perrini a.k.a. "The Wolf" (Cliff Curtis) an infamous rebel leader in Colombia's decades-long civil war who regards victims like Gordy's wife and son simply "collateral damage" in the fight for the terrorists' cause. Dem's fighting words to Gordy. He realizes that bringing the terrorist to justice is no longer a priority to anyone but himself so he heads to war-torn Colombia to track him down alone. Of course simply walking up to the Wolf and putting a bullet in his head is not as easy as it seems. In his hunt Gordy becomes involved with a woman Selena (Francesca Neri) and her young deaf son who end up tied directly to the Wolf. Things get complicated but Gordy's resolve remains the same--get the bad guy at all costs.
Schwarzenegger doesn't really need to act in his movies--he just has to be. In Collateral Damage however he is required to produce a few moments of angst and grief as he witnesses his family being blown apart. Painful as it is to watch the actor try to conjure up those emotions it thankfully passes quickly and we're back to good old Ah-nold again--shooting guns beating the heck out of people and blowing things up. It's always good modus operandi to do what you do best. Yet what Schwarzenegger cleverly does in his films is surround himself with people who can act--makes him look better. Curtis plays a convincing terrorist with motives not too far off from Gordy's and actually brings a humanizing element to his ultra-villain role. Neri has a pretty thankless part but gets to twist the knife at the end and does so with great relish. The always interesting Elias Koteas as a CIA operative doesn't play the dumb cop role as cookie-cutter as it could have been which makes his role much more palatable.
Warner Bros. definitely made a smart move when they yanked Damage from the release schedule last October and waited until now to release it. There are too many familiar scenes and references to the horrors of Sept. 11 and the rawness may have kept audiences away. But even now they should probably still stay away. Come on folks. This is one of the more far-fetched Schwarzenegger scenarios we've been subjected to yet. At least some of his other movies take place in the future where things like cloning are a reality so our willingness to suspend our disbelief comes a lot easier. Damage just gets sillier and sillier the deeper our Austrian friend goes into the Colombian jungle. For being a regular firefighter he sure knows a lot about making bombs out of electric wire light bulbs and natural gas. The one redeeming quality is the twist in the end (which we won't tell you in case you do decide to see the movie) but it certainly doesn't save the movie.
What? Robin Williams playing a flamboyant and outrageous character?
Yep, in what's obviously not-much-of-a-stretch, the seasoned funnyman is going to portray Liberace in a biopic currently in development. Titled "Liberace," the flick will follow the rise of the flaming entertainer's career until his death in 1987.
HEARING VOICES: Variety reports that Alec Baldwin will produce and star in a series of play readings called "City Center Voices! Of the American Theater" in the 2000-01 season at City Center in New York.
DAFOE MORALIZES: Willem Dafoe is likely to star in "Morality Play," a British indie film about a priest on the lam, Variety says.
'PERFECT' MATCH: Jenny McCarthy and Chris Eigeman ("Barcelona") will star in "The Perfect You," a romantic comedy written and directed by sitcom writer Matthew Miller, Daily Variety reports.
'POKE'-MORE: Warner Bros. is planning to release a third 'Pokemon' feature film in the U.S. this Spring. The film, titled "Pocket Monster 3" in Japan, opened in that country last week.
Kevin Kline BRINGING DOWN THE 'HOUSE': Variety says Kevin Kline might play a terminally ill man in the dark comedy "Life as a House." The story concerns the moribund man and his life-long wish to build a house.
'DAMAGE' CONTROL: Italian actress Francesca Neri will play Arnold Schwarzenegger's partner-in-revenge in "Collateral Damage." The film focuses on a man (Schwarzenegger) who teams up with a woman (Neri) to avenge his family's death in a terrorist bombing.
IN THE CAGE: Saturn Pictures, Nicolas Cage's production company, is close to inking a 2-year deal with Intermedia Films, Variety reports. The alliance will put Intermedia in charge of executive production and worldwide distribution of all Saturn films.