Shia LeBeouf stars in Charlie Countryman formerly known as The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman. In fact, the opening credits still keep the very long title in tact. I actually like the longer title, but anyways. Charlie’s mother (Melissa Leo) is on her deathbed and he and Charlie’s father (Vincent D’Onofrio) are not quite sure how to deal with the impending loss. In one of Countryman’s visions of his mother, she tells him to visit Bucharest, not to be confused with Budapest. Charlie is startled and sobered all at the same, so he packs his bags with a one-trip ticket to Bucharest, to find himself.
Things take a bumpy turn when he’s given an object of sentimental value by one of the passengers on the airplane to give to the man’s daughter once he lands in Bucharest. Once Charlie lands he encounters Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood) and he’s instantly, but awkwardly, smitten. As the two separate and lead different paths into the Romania chance continues to favor Charlie in that he runs into Gabi again and again. Gabi would seem like the perfect catch if it weren’t for her psychotic ex-husband Nigel played by the incomparable Mads Mikkelsen. Nigel is a force to be reckoned with and doesn’t take kindly to Charlie or anybody that stand between the two. Nigel is the type of character that builds to a violent climax each and every time he is onscreen. He’s very eloquent and soft spoken until he reaches his boiling point.
Aside from the main story arc that is Gabi and Charlie and his longing to be with her, Charlie has to stay somewhere in Romania and that’s at a youth hostel where Karl (Rupert Grint) and Luc (James Buckley) are staying. The young men are also on holiday and can get some really neat edibles before heading over to where the party is at. This, of course, leads us down into the scary underworld path of Darko (Til Schweiger) who runs a popular club that Charlie and company have fallen out of favor in. There’s a discussion about a bill that has to be paid due to one of the young men’s indiscretions. This is obviously not going to work since the boys don’t have that kind of scratch, so Darko basically “leases” Charlie and asks him to do a favor for him since Darko also knows whom Gabi and Nigel are. Darko wants to be put into contact with them again to handle some unfinished business.
I was absolutely floored by Charlie Countryman! It was brutal and sort of romantic in a very surreal way. Shia Lebeouf reminded me of Ralph Fiennes in Strange Days in that everyone uses Charlie as a punching post. Yet he still keeps on getting up over and over again, because he’s “destined” to be with Gabi come hell or high water. A really quirky component to Charlie Countryman would be that there are times when you’re watching the film and you get the feeling that none of this is really happening. There are several scenes throughout the film where recently deceased folks talk to Charlie and influence his decisions and motives. It’s as if the traumatic experience he went through early on jump-started his psychosis. That’s not a negative comment towards the movie, because the way it’s used works. It can also be said that Charlie Countryman has a sort of fantasy embellishment to it as well.
Doing research and watching the special features on the Blu-ray it was noted that Charlie Countryman had made its way through the mythic halls of Hollywood’s “Development Hell” where the film had several directors and stars in place but fell apart before filming began. In fact, Shia mentions that he had the script since he was 18 years old. First time feature film director Frederick Bond lends his stylistic eye to Charlie Countryman after spending six months pitching the film to producers and studios. In the end it really shows how a little perseverance goes a long way to complete a most unique picture that on the surface seems unfilmable.
Charlie Countryman is highly recommended. Who wants to go to Romania with me? 😉
Charlie Countryman is presented in 1080p, 1.78:1 widescreen. Please disregard the typo on the back of the box that says it’s in full frame. It is NOT in full frame. Charlie Countryman was sourced from a digital file and in doing so only minor softness issues crept up here and there while the epic color palette really took hold and never let go. Banding was never an issue and during the few, if any scenes of banding, it was used for stylistic effect. Charlie Countryman does have a very ethereal quality due to it playing as an almost twisted fairy tale of love. The video quality represents this.
Charlie Countryman is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. I initially thought the sound levels were somewhat low during the opening logo/credits but it must have been for stylistic reasons. The lossless surround sound track is really aggressive and pulsates in just about every other scene of action and dance. There are several scenes that take place in clubs and there are several action scenes that use dance/new wave music to very dynamic effect. Quite honestly, I fell in love with Romania during these scenes. The subwoofer handles the brunt of the beats that really push the depth of those scenes in particular. Dialogue is clear and crisp and there were no signs of static, hiss, or clipping. Charlie Countryman rocks Bucharest with style.
Charlie Countryman on Blu-ray has only two extras but they are somewhat worthy in that one is a very entertaining behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, with some candid cast and crew interviews. Everyone seemed to be having a ball and it really shows in this featurette. The other extra on the Blu-ray is over 20 minutes of deleted scenes with an alternate beginning and alternate ending narrated by John Hurt. I love John Hurt to death but it was the right decision to lose the narration. It was too on the nose and I think would have taken away from the emotional impact being conveyed in these two scenes.
- Behind the Scenes
- Deleted Scenes
Charlie Countryman was a pleasant surprise. It’s one of the most unconventional love stories to come out in quite a while I think. Shia LeBeouf plays it straight and no nonsense, as does the rest of the cast- Mads Mikkelsen being a total monster. The Blu-ray has very good video, exquisite audio, and the special features are brisk but entertaining. Charlie Countryman is the perfect Friday night love story with a brutal twist that will appease those that are into romance and those that are into action films. It’s the best of both worlds and it works!