Travels With Charlie: Fredrik Bond’s Disorienting Debut Feature Makes No Sense

An idiotic excess of sex and bloodshed

Shia LaBeouf in Charlie Countryman.

Shia LaBeouf in Charlie Countryman.

I don’t know anything about how to keep an acting career going in the movies, but I guess you have to take all kinds of senseless roles in stinkers like Charlie Countryman. How else can you explain the wasted presence of the charming and beautiful Evan Rachel Wood in it? By the way, nothing else about this boneheaded collection of violent clichés makes any sense, either.

When a woman with a tube down her throat flatlines in a hospital bed in Chicago, a small wisp of ghostly smoke escapes from her mouth. Aha! A sci-fi flick about ESP and possession, says I. Wrong. The next minute, the woman appears on the street as Melissa Leo, who tells her son, Charlie (a scruffy Shia LaBeouf, looking agonizingly more confused in every scene, for good reason), to board a plane to Bucharest. Another one about the living controlled by the dead? Guess again. To tell you the truth, this movie is not about anything, but it takes an eternity of stops, starts and repeats to be sure.

On the flight from Chicago to Budapest, the man in the next seat falls asleep on Charlie’s shoulder and dies. Arriving at the airport, he meets Gabi, the dead man’s daughter (the remarkable Ms. Wood, disguising her natural beauty with bottle-red hair and Goth makeup, looking alarmingly like a raccoon), who plays the cello in the orchestra of the Bucharest Opera. Following the ambulance transporting her father’s body to the hospital (he’s already dead, so why not the morgue?), there’s a massive wreck, the body bag flies through the air, and Charlie ends up at the opera with the girl’s cello. He’s inexplicably in love, but she’s a nut case who attracts killers. Worse, she’s got an ex-lover named Nigel (Denmark’s rising sex symbol, Mads Mikkelsen), a gangster whose life’s ambition seems to be knocking off the girl, for reasons that are never explained. In no time, Charlie finds himself chased by murderers, high on ecstasy, hit by a car, beaten senseless and dropped off the top of a bridge—all without a shred of logic or coherence.

Charlie goes for days without money, clothes, a bath or a shave, unable to speak one word of Romanian. Sometimes his dead mother shows up and gives him more unsolicited advice, and he manages to find every underground sex club in Bucharest without a map. In the end, he ends up dead—or does he? With Mr. LaBeouf, it’s hard to tell. The permanent scowl on his face offers no sign of life in either world, and his acting style consists of one expression, punctuated by a series of nasty hisses, like water tossed on a radiator. Neither the gibberish by writer Matt Drake that passes itself off as a screenplay nor the sleepwalking direction of Fredrik Bond provides a single attempt at character development. The result is the most idiotic excess of sex and bloodshed since Only God Forgives.

Movies don’t get any worse than Charlie Countryman.

CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN
WRITTEN BY: Matt Drake
DIRECTED BY: Fredrik Bond
STARRING: Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood and Mads Mikkelsen
RUNNING TIME: 108 min.
RATING: 0/4