When his late mother appears in a vision and tells him to go to Bucharest, Charlie Countryman immediately boards a plane across the Atlantic. A chance encounter with an ailing passenger leads Charlie to Gabi, a Romanian beauty, changing the course of his entire trip. As he falls head-over-heels in love with Gabi, he realizes that her dark past is riddled with dangerous baggage: namely her gangster ex-husband who has no intention of letting Gabi go. Determined to protect her, Charlie enters into a hallucinatory underworld filled with violence and, strangely enough, love.
There's a lesson to be learned from Charlie Countryman
. A geography lesson, to be exact: if someone recommends a visit to Bucharest, you might want to make sure they don't mean Budapest instead, for while the latter is one of Europe's most attractive and desirable destinations, the former is, well, not--at least not for this film's titular hero. Still, that's precisely where Charlie (Shia LaBeouf, hilariously described by one reviewer as a "scruffy emo-puppy") goes after his recently departed mother (Melissa Leo) appears in a vision and suggests the trip for no apparent reason. When the kindly Romanian gentleman seated next to him expires on the flight (just one of the film's many credibility-defying moments), Charlie takes it upon himself to seek out the man's daughter, Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood, sporting a decent eastern European accent), a cellist for the local opera company. Faster than you can say "Te iubesc" ("I love you"), Charlie falls for the taciturn young woman, which in turn attracts the unwanted attention of her ex, Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen). This is not a fellow you want to mess with, and when Charlie stumbles on evidence of a brutal crime carried out by Nigel and Darko (Til Schweiger), one of his shady underworld associates, mere jealousy turns to murderous rage, and Charlie spends the rest of the movie running for his life. That this American innocent abroad is willing, even eager, to risk everything for someone he's known for all of two days is, like much of the movie, patently absurd. But having shot a good many TV commercials, director Fredrik Bond knows his way around an action sequence, and his film has a sleek, dreamlike quality and an attitude that's at once ominous and mildly amusing (Harry Potter
's Rupert Grint offers comic relief as one of the fellow tourists Charlie meets at his youth hostel). Though it's no one's idea of a classic, Charlie Countryman
will surely hold your attention for a couple of hours. --Sam Graham