Charlie Countryman Blu-ray Review

For some actors, the mere mention of their name attached to a project can instantly polarize the prospective audience into sects of people who will be in line opening night and those who won’t even click a link to view the trailer.  Shia LaBeouf is definitely a name that elicits one of those responses, and unfortunately for him due to his connections with “junk food” films like the TRANSFORMERS franchise or his part in the downfall of INDIANA JONES, it’s usually the latter.

Shia LaBeouf in Charlie Countryman

On her deathbed, Charlie’s (Shia LaBeouf, TRANSFORMERS) mother (Melissa Leo, THE FIGHTER) tells her son that he must fly to Bucharest, Romania for no apparent reason.  During the flight, Charlie is tasked by a passenger to track down his daughter Gabi (Evan Rachael Wood, THE IDES OF MARCH) and deliver her a package.  Since Charlie has no real idea of why he’s flying to Bucharest to begin with, he agrees to help the stranger.  When Charlie finds Gabi, he feels an instant connection with her and a romance begins, however Gabi is already wed to a Romanian crime boss.

Shia LaBeouf in Charlie Countryman

Even though he’ll undoubtedly take the lion’s share of the blame, the flaws of CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN have little to do with LaBeouf’s performance.  In fact, that’s the M.O. for most of his projects.  LaBeouf is not a bad actor, far from it.  He’s just made some choices in his career that rush to the forefront of audiences’ minds whenever the syllables of his unambiguous name are uttered.  Whether it be swinging from trees with monkeys or arguing with his parents while giant robots poorly hide in his backyard, there seems to be an overwhelming sense to not take him seriously when he does take on complicated and layered characters.

LaBeouf’s presentation of Charlie actually serves as the only anchor keeping the story from floating completely into the “surrealosphere.”  Screenwriter Matt Drake conjures up the same style of chaotic escalation from his last film PROJECT X, however the technique does not play out with the same success in a semi-thriller, love story as it did in a teenage, house-party comedy.  CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN’s plot heavily relies on pure coincidental circumstances to drive the story forward.  A film can get away with one, maybe two such incidents as a major facet in the narrative, but this film seems to purposefully cross that threshold with deliberate arrogance.

Shia LaBeouf in Charlie Countryman

Director Fredrik Bond attempts to solder together the frantic scenes from Drake’s script, but Bond’s stylistic approach can be viewed as equally schizophrenic.  Some excerpts from CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN can be reminiscent of a Doug Liman (THE BOURNE IDENTITY, GO) venture, other times there’s a definite Danny Boyle vibe (127 HOURS, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE).  Although, Bond really should get a “pass” here as a first-time director, it’s not unexpected to try and emulate the work of those who inspired you at the beginning of a career.  If Bond stays with it, he’ll eventually work out his own unique style and hopefully have the opportunity to direct some more coherent screenplays.

Shia LaBeouf in Charlie Countryman

CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN tries too hard to carve out a spot for itself amongst the great “destiny” films like SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE or DONNIE DARKO, however if there is any saving grace at all for the film, it does contain some very nice aesthetics by way of cinematography.  Other than that and a sizzle-reel worthy performance by LaBeouf, the blatant attempt to cover up a lack of story depth with a frenzy of anarchy, dilutes the worth of time anyone should allot to its viewing.

CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN BLU-RAY REVIEW

Video:  1080p/AVC MPEG-4, 1.78:1 Widescreen: The most noticeable attribute of this transfer is its smoothness.  Detail is sharp, especially during close-ups, but the vivid colors come off more like an artist’s palette than a digital gamut.  Contrast is very consistent between day and night scenes and there is little to no sign of any compression artifacts or noise.

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1: Unfortunately this audio mix commits the fatal flaw of low dialogue.  Not so low that the film is unwatchable, but when other aspects like background noise or music occur, the actors’ lines can become subdued.  The music and effects fill the room and nicely complement one another, however in order for them not to overpower the dialogue you’ll have to increase the volume to a level where they may surpass a tolerable threshold.

Behind the Scenes (21 min):  Your run-of-the-mill, behind-the-scenes featurette with interviews from the cast about their views on the story.  Mostly fluff material except some info on how many times this script was passed over the years.

Deleted Scenes (20 min):  This collection of deleted scenes includes an alternate ending and an alternate opening as well.  They go “hand in hand” as each contains the voiceover of John Hurt (V FOR VENDETTA, HELLBOY).  Hurt’s voiceover pushes the probability of the story being some sort of dream or anecdotal embellishment almost into the “certainty” column.  This might have actually improved how a viewer takes in the story, giving them the permission to discount many of the flaws.

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