The International (R)

 

Story's got some rough spots, but the rough stuff's spot on.

The International
In this image released by Sony Pictures, Clive Owen stars as Louis Salinger in the Columbia Pictures thriller "The International."
 

By Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald

By Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald In The International, the bad guys wear snazzy tailored suits, drive expensive sports cars and conspire in plush, high-tech offices. The good guy, however, looks as if he's coming off a ferocious bender. As an Interpol agent obsessed with bringing down a Luxembourg-based bank that specializes in black-market arms dealing, Clive Owen runs around like James Bond's unkempt brother, in dire need of a shave, haircut, a fresh set of clothes and a good night's sleep.

''You look awful,'' his co-star Naomi Watts says, and he does -- albeit in that stylishly rumpled way only movie stars can pull off. Owen is a movie star, all right: He's such a magnetic, charismatic actor, he makes you believe in whatever cause his characters are fighting for, be they in an ambitious, thoughtful drama like Children of Men or a throwaway B-picture like Sin City. The International falls somewhere in between, with screenwriter Eric Warren Singer striving to make you believe that this complex thriller about widespread corruption within the global banking industry has something more than timeliness on its side.

But director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Heaven) invests the most effort into The International's showy setpieces, such as the attempt on the life of the Italian prime minister or an outrageous mid-film shootout inside New York's Guggenheim Museum that leaves the structure's famed rotunda looking like chunks of holey cheese. That shootout, in which Owen squares off against wave after wave of trained assassins, is exceptionally well choreographed and orchestrated: It's a rousing piece of action filmmaking, but it could have come from practically any movie.

The International, which criss-crosses the globe to uncover new depths of evil and murderous greed, is a throwback to 1970s thrillers such as The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor, in which the heroes' paranoia was proven right, and the world really was out to get them. Despite the script's persistent focus on the link between terrorism and big business, The International feels naggingly generic.

You've seen this movie before, if perhaps not quite so stylishly directed. Its characters are all types, playing their parts in a formulaic plot that doesn't even have the courage to embrace the darkness at its center (Watts, in particular, is wasted as a Manhattan assistant district attorney). An hour after seeing it, you may not remember what The International was about. But you'll certainly remember that shootout. That is something to behold.

Cast: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Ulrich Thomsen, Brian F. O'Byrne. Director: Tom Tykwer. Screenwriter: Eric Warren Singer. Producers: Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Lloyd Philips. A Sony Pictures release. Running time: 118 minutes. Vulgar language, violence, gore. Playing at area theaters.

Published: 2/09

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