Having a dead man slobbering all over Shia Labeouf’s shoulder is certainly an odd way to open a love story, but Fredrik Bond’s first feature film Charlie Countryman seems comfortable with being an uncomfortable mish-mash of genres.
In the film, Labeouf plays an American that travels to the Romanian city of Bucharest, but when a fellow airplane passenger passes away, he meets and falls in love with the dead man’s daughter, Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood). Unfortunately, a ruthless Romanian gangster has already “claimed” Gabi and doesn’t plan on letting her or Charlie go. What follows is a dangerous journey into the depths of the Romanian underworld that threatens to swallow Charlie whole.
Labeouf seems to be running full bore away from anything remotely robotic or blockbuster-like. He has sworn off of Hollywood’s love for big action flicks, and turned his focus to smaller films. With Charlie Countryman, he grows his hair out to almost Bohemian lengths, dons a patchy beard, and hides away (from Decepticons) in the grimy streets of Bucharest for this indie thriller with a dirty, otherworldly essence. But to call this simply an indie thriller would be a bit disingenuous. It flirts with several styles of film while blanketing it all with a hallucinatory haze.
The movie has a cast full of diverse actors including Rupert Grint, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Melissa Leo, but the clear standout is Mads Mikkelsen who manages to terrify and enthrall in the short glimpses we see of him in the trailer. When an actor like Mikkelsen manages to make his previous turn as Hannibal Lecter seem levelheaded and friendly by comparison, he’s really outdone himself in the villiany department.