Wednesday, 4 January 2012

From The Vault: The International (2009)

I just read this, *oi*. You would have thought a teen wrote this. So much MACHISMO
  • ·         The International (2009)
    Tom Twyker's the International is the story of crusading and devoted Interpol Agent Lou (Clive Owen) and New York DA Eleanor (Naomi Watts) battling against bastard international bank the IBB...something, and against it's exceutive mongrel Skarrssen (Ulrich Thomsen) and his go-to guy and assassin-handler Wexler (Armin Mueller-Stahl).

    The International
    is a well shot and pretty solid espionage conspiracy thriller, which harks back to the cold war thrillers of the 70s, 80s and early 90s. Owen is solid as the dedicated and slightly on edge Interpol agent. As much as I like Owen I’ve always thought that he's been quiet stone faced and wooden, and while his signature look is present here, he does pull of convincingly a man who's been working on a case too long to get any sleep. Naomi Watts is uninteresting; however the script is partly to blame as Owen should be the star of this film. Watts is now at that particular point in her 30s that she's playing a working mother.

    My problem with the film is the commerce speak. (I was young. I get it now but I didn’t then.) With little to go on by way of clever direction and music spikes, economical conversations rattle on with no indication of what was important or not. The audience just know that the bank is bad, and are killing/covering up their tracks as they go. Only later do we know that there are deals with missiles and Israelis and Turkish people and someone called Enzo and by then it's difficult to understand why there're so bad and why they need to be stopped.

    The centrepiece and in my mind the best fucking part of the film is a dazzling shootout at the Guggenheim museum in New York. it's ear achingly loud and at times brutal and violent, and very fun (I’m still a guy, ok? We like this kind of stuff.) Not that many bad guys get killed as much as I’d want them too (See?) but Clive Owen does absolutely fuck up the museum, it's awesome. Another plus for the film is that it is shot very nicely, very nice shots of Turkey, NY, Italy, etc. and some of the scenes have the hallmarks of classic cold war thriller films.

    There are some good thriller moments. Highlight: Clive Owen sticks his thumb in a band guy’s bullet wound and tosses him over the edge of a railing at the Guggenheim and we see the dude fall and clip a lower railing before sprawling out on the ground (I’M A RED BLOODED MALE). And the scene when the hitman that Owen is forced to team up with shoots the shit out of this guy, which got a laugh (MAN!). What I did like also was a scene at the end when Mueller-Stahl tells Owen that the bank cannot be stopped. That what the bank provides all the countries in the world need and that if Owen tried to stop them, he'd only do damage to himself. I like that pessimism, the realism that the big bad guys are too big and bad to be stopped Hollywood-style. That was my major gripe with the excellent Manchurain Candidate (2004), where a major corporate conspiracy (which had majorly infected the government) was stopped by one man and some 'honest' secret service agents. (SPOILER ALERT) However, I believed that the seemingly tacked-on credit sequence conflicted with this pessimism. After Owen tries to kill the big boss in Turkey only to have an Italian hitman kill him instead, we are lead to believe that, through Owens machinations, the company is sunk by rivals (or something, it's hard to follow). The credit sequence then features newspaper clippings telling how the company was almost sunk but came back from the brink, which I thought was interesting, like he tried to stop them but the evil bastards came back. But the last clipping says that they are being federally investigated, suggesting that a trial and proper law and order will prevail. (SPOILERS END) (I think I wrote some of these knowing that my friend wouldn't watch them, so I'd discuss things with spoilers.)

    I found it interesting that Owen's Lou ends up teaming up with the elusive assassin (Brian F. O'Byrne) and later with the assassin's handler (Mueller-Stahl) and doing more productive things with the bad guys than he did with Naomi Watts, the good girl. I was expecting when Owen caught Mueller-Stahl that, after learning that the bad guys couldn’t be stopped, his spirit would be broken and he'd be all depressed but instead Owen spouts lame 'lines' (you know, not real dialogue) and goes on a revenge quest to turkey to outwit the enemy. Personally I would have made the whole thing less economic, the bad guys more evil, move violent and real, and much, much more bleak. But that's me.(BEING A REAL MAN)

    Verdict: Solid, but wont rock your world. A bit confusing, but worth seeing for the shootout

    *** stars

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