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The International: Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Bank?

The International: Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Bank?

The International, starring Clive Owen as an Interpol operative tracking the shady dealings of a large bank, has as much going for it as it does working against it. It's not a bad movie, sprinkled as it is with scenes that are visually extraordinary, not to mention insanely entertaining. But it's not a good movie either, thanks to half-baked characterization and dialogue that had my audience howling with laughter (which I'm sure was unintended).

To see what I think works in this action-thriller and what fails miserably,


Oh, Clive! I hate to talk badly about his projects, but I'm afraid his brooding, unshaven brute with a thirst for justice is a character that even the most talented actor would have a hard time getting an audience to take seriously. His character is given just a little bit of flimsy back story that is supposed to shed some light on why this guy is so violent and totally obsessed with nailing this big bank that murders anyone who threatens to reveal its corrupt ways. But an even flimsier reason is given for why Naomi Watts's character, New York Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman, hops on board this chase for clues across Europe. These two characters are intense but empty — like a vacuum at the center of this movie.

So when the mysterious bank dealings are revealed to the audience and the drama hits its crescendo, it falls dreadfully flat. Both Watts and Owen give long, heartfelt speeches full of trite observations about the state of the globe, debt, justice — even socialism, for Pete's sake — but their personal revelations mean nothing to us because we've never invested in these hollow people.

The plot is also a little convoluted and never quite hits a cohesive narrative stride. Thankfully, I wasn't too bothered by that because all the odd pieces of the story take place in wonderfully scenic locales. From the cliffs of Italy to a rooftop bazaar in Istanbul, the aerial shots are fun to behold. The real reason to see this movie is a lengthy gun fight scene that takes place in a re-created version of New York's Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum. It's pretty awesome. In fact, I'm telling my friends to wait for this movie to come out on DVD and fast-forward to that scene.

Photos courtesy of Sony Pictures

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