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"The International"

Directed by Tom Tykwer.
Written by Eric Singer.
Starring Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Ulrich Thomsen.
Release Year:  2009
Review Date:  2/14/09


What perfect timing!  A movie about dirty international banks for Valentine's Day Weekend in today's "tough economic times"..."The International" is a solid thriller that makes you quietly hope that just this one time, a Clive Owen film makes some freakin' money.

Directed by Tom Tykwer, the guy that did "Run Lola Run", "The International" features an Interpol agent (Owen) and a Manhattan prosecutor (Naomi Watts) in hot pursuit of leads that will help them take down the International Bank of Business & Credit, a Luxembourg-based firm that just happens to be negotiating a deal to provide funding for missiles to foreign governments.  As we are reminded early in the film after the Interpol agent's partner is murdered, the IBBC has a penchant for being involved in the deaths of everyone who has been investigating their operations, so it's up to our lead twosome to get to the bottom of it.  Globetrotting, snipers, Italian investigators and a shootout at the Guggenheim in New York ensue!

"The International" has probably been called "a taut, gripping thriller" by somebody that gets paid to do this, but in this case, I'd have to admit that's what we have here--a wall-to-wall entertaining thriller with very minor twists, logical explanations for a vast world of crime, a couple of nice action sequences and beautiful cinematography.  This is one of those slick productions that would seem lost without a slick lead like Owen, who looks like hell throughout the movie but he never seems out of place.  Strangely, I wished that the last Bond movie would have been more like "The International", more focused on crime-fighting than piling up bodybags, but with the same focus on vast building lobbies, beautiful people on location in Italy or Turkey or Luxembourg or France, high-end technology and dirty government dealings.  Maybe this will bag Tykwer a bigger budget and a Bond contract!

Owen and Watts are capable as performers here; the script in general is nice in that it's not too wordy or voluminous, so Watts almost feels like a secondary performer because she often doesn't have much to do.  The supporting cast of international players all fit just right, and the film doesn't really have too many extras...I laughed maybe twice (and even those were mere chuckles), there is no romantic angle (perfect for the material), there is no cool, WTF-style surprise, the soundtrack is ordinary.

"The International" is one of those rare three-out-of-four stars movies that gets released early in the year mainly to make money and add to the canon of the players involved.  I would be surprised if this makes big money, but for a good Friday night entertainment for adults, this one fits quite well.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 02/26/09