I’m going to start this review off with a spoiler. Shia LaBeouf is awful. Haha. Just kidding. That’s not a spoiler. We should all know by now that the naked music video star is pretty bad. The real spoiler is that at the end of The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, his newest movie which debuted at Sundance on Monday night, Charlie Countryman does not, in fact, die. That means this mess of a movie should really be called The Unnecessary Life of Charlie Countryman. Seeing it is, of course, unnecessary.
Remember last summer when Mr. LaBeouf made a big stink about how he thinks all studio movies suck and he’s only making indies from now on because he thinks they’re “art”? After watching this movie, we consider his declaration akin to someone saying he is only going to eat in fancy restaurants from now on and then sitting down to a dinner of Big Macs and Shamrock Shakes. Maybe Shia needs to make some better choices when considering “art.”
This first feature from commercial director Fredrik Bond tries to latch onto the “magic realism” trend we’re seeing at the festival, and Shia’s character Charlie talks to the spirit of his recently deceased mother (Melissa Leo), who tells him, for no good reason, to go to Bucharest, Romania. He does. And, while on the plane, his seat-mate dies on his shoulder. He then gets involved with the passenger’s daughter (a wasted Evan Rachel Wood with a bad haircut), the Romanian mafia, and Rupert Grint as a porn star wannabe with an erection that won’t go away and an ecstasy addiction (between this and Daniel Radcliffe‘s gay sex scene in Kill Your Darlings, the Harry Potter boys are really using Sundance to bust out of their old wizard hats).
Yes, the movie swings from one incident to the next without making much sense or giving us any motivation for the characters’ antics, other than Charlie’s love at first sight for Wood’s Gaby and some nefarious nonsense about a tape the mob wants to get a hold of. It’s like the filmmaker sat down and wrote down a list of all the things he thinks are cool (strip clubs, drugs, youth hostels, pot smoking, mobsters, the cello, beating people up, Xanax, fairies, pain killers, having sex with Evan Rachel Wood, drugs, alcohol, drugs and alcohol, smoking, donuts, and drugs) and then found a way to shoehorn them all into a movie. As if piling cool on top of cool will make more cool. No, like the guy wearing the band’s T-shirt to the concert, it just means you’re trying too hard. It’s like a collection of lame cliches that is searching for a larger meaning that it never finds. On top of that, there are the magical elements that never quite fit in, as if they were a larger part of the movie but then had to be edited out so that we could have more scenes of Gaby’s mean boyfriend threatening everyone. How many of these do we need? Isn’t 19 enough? And do we really need to see our hero running in slow motion through the streets? It’s like Run, Shia, Run, but his bob won’t get nearly the attention of Tom Tykwer’s red-headed German.
The ending of the movie (which is also the beginning) is completely abysmal. Not only do we never learn the fate of Grint’s character (who, last we saw was naked and super glued to a friend of his), but the resolution is never explained. Suddenly, the cops show up arresting everyone, and Charlie is saved, robbing us of the death we were promised and the one thing to look forward to before the credits rolled.
One of the biggest problems, of course, is LaBeouf himself. While it’s great that he wants to make different movies (especially since he can retire forever on his Transformers money), he doesn’t seem to choose quality projects or be a very versatile actor to pull them off. In this film, he mugs and runs around like he would in any other action movie. He does nothing but play Shia, and he pales in comparison to Wood, one of Hollywood’s greatest young actresses who never gets the roles she deserves. And what is going on with Shia’s body? He is all sinew, like he’s on a tofu, yoga, and wildflower diet. He looks not like a sexy symbol but sort of like an anatomy model with a bad wig on. (Oh, speaking of which, at one point in the movie he calls someone else a “greasy f**k” with a complete lack of irony. Oh, Shia.)
LaBeouf’s next role is in the very, very indie Lars von Trier movie Nymphomaniac, a movie that contains lots of real sex between the actor and, well, some other people. Let’s see how he fares in that one. But if it’s as awful as Charlie Countryman, maybe it’s time for Shia to quit indie movies as well.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Ascot Elite Entertainment]