* (out of 5)
December 10, 2010
Johnny Depp as FRANK TUPELO
Angelina Jolie as ELISE CLIFTON-WARD
Paul Bettany as INSPECTOR JOHN ACHESON
Timothy Dalton as CHIEF INSPECTOR JONES
Steven Berkoff as REGINALD SHAW
Rufus Sewell as THE ENGLISHMAN
Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
A couple years ago, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck made the rather brilliant and powerful film “The Lives of Others” which showed the intense danger of day-to-day life in East Germany. You’d think with his background, he’s be primed to make one hell of an international thriller.
Then, throw in a case of mistaken identity, two of the biggest movie stars on the planet and the gorgeous backdrop of Venice, Italy, and you’d end up with a Bond-sized hit.
You’d think that, but you’d be wrong.
What you end up with is “The Tourist,” one of the flattest films of the entire year. Angelina Jolie plays Elise Clifton-Ward, a woman under surveillance by the police for her connection to an international criminal. Johnny Depp plays Frank Tupelo, a mild-mannered American tourist whom Elise uses as a decoy for her lover to throw the police off her trail. When an international gangster who is searching for his embezzled money starts coming after them, they go on the run.
A good set-up, right? Yeah, it actually is. Were it done right, this could have been a really kicker of a film with plenty of action and lots of steamy love scenes. Unfortunately at the hands of von Donnersmarck, we end up with a pedantic and dull film. What worked in “The Lives of Others,” which was an intense slow burn with very subtle and taut relationships, is the weight that makes this movie drown in the canal.
It’s actually rare for me to see a film that is such an utter failure on so many levels. With the exception of the cinematography and production design, which looks fantastic, everything else has problems. I’m not just talking the writing, acting and directing. The technical aspects have serious issues, from bad ADR to overproduced foley to alarmingly bad green screen shots on the train.
But the core problems come from the stars. Angelina Jolie phones in her role, used more as a mannequin to look statuesque and beautiful than actually act. There’s literally a scene where she walks into an office and poses in front of an open window in the most unnatural fashion. Add to this a series of shots of her walking shows that von Donnersmarck was more enamored by her swaying arse than her star power.
Then there’s Johnny Depp, who takes a stab at playing the everyman. Unfortunately, as an everyman, he does too good of a job because he just comes off as boring… like a real everyman. Were you to list all of Johnny Depp’s best performances, you’d think of Jack Sparrow, Hunter S. Thompson, Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, Willy Wonka, the Mad Hatter and any number of out-of-the-box characters. That’s where his strength lies. So with “The Tourist,” he’s a dud with no chemistry with his leading lady.
Then we have so many opportunities for action sequences, but they are squandered. For a film that tries so hard to be a grown-up international thriller with a James Bond feel (going as far to cast “Octopussy” villain Steven Berkoff as the bad guy), it offers almost nothing in terms of action and excitement.
The closest thing we get is a low-speed water taxi chase in the streets of Venice, which was actually done to a far greater effect in “Moonraker” more than 30 years before. But in “The Tourist,” they travel at the breakneck speed of 5 miles per hour and never really get to open water. It’s like watching O.J. Simpsons flee in a white Bronco.
Finally, we arrive at an ending which is so poorly conceived that I saw it coming about half-way through the film but dismissed it because the set-up won’t actually allow it to happen. I swear, this was the worst ending I’ve seen this year… right up there with “The Book of Eli” and “Remember Me.”
Watch out, folks… “The Tourist” is a trap!