Love is a dangerous, ancient city in Charlie Countryman.
The hectic action-romance begins in the hospital, where a ponytailed dork with the children’s book name of Charlie Countryman (Shia LaBeouf) watches a doctor remove his mother (Melissa Leo) from life support. When he exits the hospital, though, she’s there again. “Tell me what to do,” he pleads. “Go to Bucharest,” she suggests. She probably meant Budapest, jokes the Romanian mobster (Ion Caramitru) next to him on the plane. Moments later, that unlikely seatmate dies, and Charlie takes it upon himself to deliver a gift the departed had intended for Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood), the mobster’s daughter.
If Charlie’s meant to learn who he is in Bucharest, he better be prepared to not like the answer, as it turns out he’s pretty dumb: He falls for Gabi, a woman he’s nowhere near man enough for, then gets punched in the face repeatedly by her jealous husband (Mads Mikkelsen).
The film wants to convince us that Charlie’s the ultimate fool for love, but the plot only exposes him as a young man with mommy issues chasing after the first pair of boobs he sees and as an Ugly American who doesn’t understand the ways of the old world and stubbornly refuses to learn them.
LaBeouf and Wood don’t clang, but they don’t quite click, either. That’s not enough for the film to persuade us of its message, that love is worth any sacrifice. Charlie Countryman is an ode to an ideal no one over 16 actually believes.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 12, 2013