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Tag: Clive Owen

The International: Owen Left Overdrawn in Overlong Thriller

by on Feb.13, 2009, under El Cine: Entertainment Section

Naomi Watts and Clive Owen

Naomi Watts and Clive Owen

Reviewed by Henry B. Rosenbush
Updated June 11, 2009 with info on the DVD release

Clive Owen broods, Naomi Watts is beautiful, Armin Mueller-Stahl is duplictious and towering over it all is corrupt global banking that funds The International. A clever financially structured plot overdrawn by its running time and too soon climactic scene in the Guggenheim Museum.

The film concerns the fictional IBBC, which was based on the real Bank of Credit and Commercial International (circa 1970s-1991), a Pakistan-born institution specializing in money laundering, arms dealing and financing rebel armies, mercenaries and terrorists. First-time scribe Eric Warren Singer starts off with an assassination in broad daylight of a an agent of Interpol who has just learned a powerful bank has bankrolled the sell of missles to fund a war.

Former Scotland Yard detective-turned-Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Owen), is a pushy, brooding in-perpetual-need-of-a-shave sort of fellow and while Owen has brought seriousness to the role he has been usually blessed with far better material. His maverick agent’s quest to bankrupt the evil institution leads to a not so believable pairing with a too-sexy DA who, in real life, would certainly never be involved in the serpentine investigation through which the film leads the characters.

Watt’s is wasted in a not-quite-window-dressing role but with an undefined family life and a hinted at, but never consumated, interest in Louis. As a New York Assistant District Attorney, she invests Eleanor Whitman with as much as the script provides, which is sadly underwritten. Her decision to help Louis escape from police custody as the final half hour starts is OK for a plot device but would certainly not help her career in a real life situation.

Stahl fares better as an advisor to IBBC, who offers the backstory that no matter what transpires, especially in a later vengence-themed direction for Louis, that all actions have consequences. The actor brings a nice multi-leveled character to the film. His turn as messenger to the bank’s ultimate foreclosure policy, a hit man aptly named, The Consultant (Brian F. O’Byrne) who assassinates Umberto Calvini (Luca Giorgio Barbareschi) during a political rally in Milan, in a well-orchestrated act that will hold those consequences Wilhelm Wexler (Stahl) alluded too in the ambiquous climax.

The film makes good use of locations around the world; Germany, Italy, England, New York City before heading to Istanbul, Turkey for a confrontation between Louis and IBBC leader Jonas Skarssen (Ulrich Thomsen) that climaxes after a rooftop foot chase. The final image leaves one with the distinct impression that much of what has transpired had absolutely no effect on the outcome.

Skarssen’s assertion “There will be a hundred other bankers to take my place” rings all too true in light of the current world banking industries control over individuals and governments as earlier echoed by Calvini.

Director Tom Tykwer, whose Run Lola Run in the late 1990s used a simple story retold thwrice in 20-minute loops to satisfying effect, has all the elements for a contemporary thriller, especially in light of real-world financial villians. Calvini, head of a large and powerful Italian arms manufacturing company gets one scene to explain to Louis and Eleanor the lengths IBBC can go, making a parallel to BCCI with other scenes of Skarssen dealing with a Third World leader who will receive weapons (Stinger Missles from China), tactical assistance and funding for a military coup.

Calvini explains, moments before his death, the film’s most chilling realization that IBBC “controls debt” throughout the world, and especially in war-torn Third. It is a a revelation that breaks the bond between the bank and arms dealer leading to his unsurprising demise which spins off a subplot that, at least as a movie plot device, brings the final image some properly inventive conflicting emotions.

Technically proficient, with the 14-minute set-piece a gun battle with the mortally wounded Consultant and Louis versus machine-gun firing investment bankers whose destruction of the amazing set recreation of the actual Guggenheim Musuem, in an abandoned Berlin railway roundhouse, utterly destroys art in a way only the Dadaists could appreciate. The real organization helped production designer Uli Hanisch in the stunning dead-on circular Frank Lloyd-Wright design.

All tech credits are pro with Frank Griebe’s lensing particularly welcoming. One of the biggest miscalculation is the positioning of the shootout with 45 minutes remaining which leaves the film with a series of less frenetic paced expository scenes until the final ten minutes.

Owen is an interesting actor whose action roles (Shoot ’em up; Sin City, Bourne Identity) have been well acted and although he is not bad here, there is a sense that he has been left with an overdrawn account and a need for a shower, a shave, change or clothes and a better script for his next film.

Although the film has some deficits it’s still more enjoyable than a foreclosure and some of the revelations are as frighteningly possible as they are movie fictional constructs. The best scene comes late when Louis sits down for a chat with Wilhelm, where he learns “Everyone is involved. Hezbollah. CIA. The Columbian drug cartels. Russian organized crime. Governments of Iran, Germany, China, your government. Every multinational corporation, every one.”

With banks like IBBC necessary to “…fund operations within the black and gray latitudes” the newspaper headlines beneath the end credits provide the chilling real world dénouement that evokes a similar frightening conclusion of David Drury’s 1985 political thriller, Defence of the Realm which examined the amorality of the British Secret Services and the lengths to which they went to protect national secrets.

(U.S.-Germany) A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures presentation, in association with Relativity Media, of an Atlas Entertainment production, a Rose Line Prods. and Siebente Babelsberg Film co-production. Produced by Charles Roven, Richard Suckle and Lloyd Phillips; executive producers, Alan G. Glazer and Ryan Kavanaugh; co-producers, Gloria Fan, Henning Molfenter, Carl L. Woebcken and Christoph Fisser. Directed by Tom Tykwer from a screenplay by Eric Warren Singer. (English and Italian dialogue). Camera (Deluxe color, Arri widescreen), Frank Griebe; editor, Mathilde Bonnefoy; music, Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil; production designer, Uli Hanisch; supervising art director, Kai Karla Koch; art directors, Sarah Horton, Luca Tranchino; set designers, Bettina Lessnig, Marcus Goeppner, Stephen Bream; set decorator, Simon Boucherie; costume designer, Ngila Dickson; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Ed Cantu; supervising sound editor, Frank Kruse; re-recording mixer, Matthias Lempert; visual effects supervisor, Viktor Muller; visual effects, UPP Prague; special effects supervisor, Gerd Feuchter; stunt coordinator, Glenn Boswell; assistant director, Sebastian Fahr-Brix; second unit director/camera, John Mahaffie; casting, Francine Maisler.

Reviewed at Regal Hollywood 20, Greenville, SC, Friday, February 13, 2009; MPAA Rating: R for scenes of violence and language. 1:58.

Midnight Audience: 4 men while everyone else was celebrating Friday the 13th as shopaholics; not a good sign for this film’s boxoffice strength.

Louis Salinger – Clive Owen
Eleanor Whitman – Naomi Watts
Wilhelm Wexler – Armin Mueller-Stahl
Jonas Skarssen – Ulrich Thomsen
The Consultant – Brian F. O’Byrne
Detective Bernie Ward – Jack McGee
Detective Iggy Ornelas – Felix Solis
Detective Gloria Hubbard – Nilaja Sun
Ahmet Sunay – Haluk Bilginer
New York D.A – James Rebhorn
Inspector Alberto Cerutti – Alessandro Fabrizi
Umberto Calvini – Luca Giorgio Barbareschi
Martin White – Patrick Baladi
Francis Ehames – Jay Villiers

NOTE: The DVD was released June 9th and contains some interesting extras, especially the half hour featurette, “Making The International,” which along with the usual behind-the-scenes footage has some interesting back stories into the real Bank of Credit and Commercial International and its influences on world banking and the movie. An extended scene between Salinger and Whitman while it would have made the film longer by nearly 12 minutes at least gives some more backstory to Watt’s character and introduces us to Louis’ girl friend and adds another level of paranoia.

While it is easy to see why it was dropped from the final cut it at least gave more credibility to Whitman and Watts is quite good as we see a moment where the two have some chemistry that in retrospect would have circumvented the duo on screen. Too often, romance is introduced into a film that merely short circuits credulity and it was wise to not slip these two charismatic actors beneath the sheets when it would not have furthered the story.

There are other neat extras about location shooting and the great set design on the Guggenheim, the Autostadt, which doubled as the bank and a commentary from director and screenwriter that is humorous and informative.

Thankfully, there is no Director’s Cut that tries to alter the theatrical version, which with or without criticism deserved a better fate at the boxoffice.

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