Nov 23, 2014

Review: The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman (2013)

Shia LaBeouf gets a pretty bad wrap and for some of the things he's done in his personal life and understandably so. We can't know all the circumstances to what led to some of his controversies and trouble with the law, but Shia strikes me as a bit of a weird guy who just loses his cool way too easily. None of this really matters to me when it came to reviewing The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman because I always separate the artist and their personal lives when I evaluate their work.

One thing I'll always give Shia LaBeouf credit for is trying and putting in the effort. He takes acting really seriously (maybe a bit too seriously) and that's something I really respect. Although he does seem to end up doing the same sort of performance over and over again, I usually enjoy his hectic energy.


Genre: comedy, drama, romance
Directed by: Fredrik Bond
Produced by: Albert Berger, Craig J. Flores, William Horberg, etc.
Written by: Matt Drake
Music by: Christophe Beck, DeadMono
Running time: 103 minutes
Production company: MediaPro Pictures, Media Pro, Bona Fide Productions, etc.
Distributed by: Millennium Entertainment, Aventi, Cathay-Keris Films, etc.
Country: United States, Romania
Language: English, Romanian
Budget: N/A
Box office: $11,650 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelsen, Til Schweiger, Melissa Leo, Vincent D'Onofrio, Vanessa Kirby, Rupert Grint, James Buckley, Montserrat Lombard, Ion Caramitru, Aubrey Plaza, Lachlan Nieboer, Adrian Pavlovschi, Cosmin Padureanu, Cristian Nicolae


Charlie Countryman (Shia LaBeouf) goes with his father (Vincent D'Onofrio) to see his mom (Melissa Leo) in the hospital one last time. Once she passes away, he sees her in a vision telling him to go to Bucharest. He bids farewell to his ex-girlfriend (Aubrey Plaza) and boards a plane. On the flight Charlie meets and chats with his seatmate Victor Ibanescu (Ion Caramitru) for a while. Some time later, he finds Victor dead but also gets a visit from him in spirit form. Victor asks him to bring a gift he bought for his daughter Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood) which begins a wild adventure in Bucharest.


First timer Fredrik Bond gives The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman a Euro/techno-style that is of evenly matched by its score. I usually fall into the category of people with a big appreciation for stylish films, even when the substance is lacking. However TNDoCC doesn't do enough as I'd have expected or wanted in terms of cinematography or substance either.

That doesn't mean it doesn't try though. Scriptwriter Matt Drake who was part of the team that gave us the party movie Project X has pieced together adventure, drama, romance, action/thriller and even some fantasy elements. That's a lot of genres and unfortunately it all just seems like a big mishmash without really working together very well. There are way too many scenes that drag on and feel overdramatic. It's a movie that overindulges in its score and piles on what seems to be a million reaction shots in slow motion.

There are however a couple of tense scenes that work pretty well though. Most of that comes courtesy of Mads Mikkelsen and Til Schweiger who play the typical Euro thugs we're all pretty familiar with. They're still pretty fun to watch as they work their magic despite some uneven dialogue. There's also a pretty good foot chase sequence that begins in a hostel and ends in a subway on an undeniably cool note.

As far as Shia LaBeouf is concerned, you can really see that he's giving it his all here. I like his energy and his commitment that drove him to use real LSD for his tripping out scene. He isn't able to steer this film onto the right path though. He spends a lot of time getting the crap beat out of him and he isn't able to really make his character's wide-eyed romance with Gabi all that convincing.

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman is a pretty good first effort for Fredrik Bond, but there's too much packed into the 103 minute run time. Some simplification would've made this a much tighter film. I do hope that the low box office take of TNDoCC won't stop Fredrik Bond from getting more work though. If you're looking to see Shia LaBeouf in a smaller movie that isn't part of of the usual Hollywood machine, this film's a good choice. 



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