It’s no big insight that action movies tend to take our societal boogey-men and make them into villains. In times like these, when the downfall of global banks is so acutely felt, it should come as no surprise that The International pits our hero against a corrupt multi-national banking magnate. Clive Owen seems to have made a few bad movie choices recently (Children of Men was great, but see his carrot-wielding sharp-shooter in the ridiculous movie Shoot’em Up). This time he plays a grizzled Interpol agent who has sacrificed everything to investigate the dirty dealings of the International Bank of Commerce and Credit (talk about your obviously made-up name!). Alongside him is Naomi Watts as a globe-trotting employee of the New York City DA’s office (who must have a lot of frequent flyer miles or a private jet or something allowing her to jet back and forth between Europe and NYC on the drop of a tax-payer’s dime). Normally, I find both Owen and Watts to be pretty good actors, but I guess there’s only so much you can do with material like this. In fact, besides the amazing locations from Italy to Turkey to New York, there is sadly nothing impressive about this movie at all.
I can’t believe that this movie was directed by Tom Tykwer, the guy who brought us the amazing Run Lola Run. Not only does this movie go nowhere (plot-wise — location-wise it’s all over Europe), but even the action is unimaginative. I guess the climax was supposed to be the way-too-visceral shootout in the lobby of the Guggenheim Museum. (After all the gushing bullet wounds, do we really need to see blood drip from Owen’s earlobe after he gets nicked by a bullet? I don’t think so.) Frankly, I would have expected a movie dealing with international finance to be a lot more complex. I’m the first to admit that anything where dollar signs and numbers are involved tends to go over my head, but it would’ve been much more satisfying if our hero had triumphed by beating the bad guy at his own game — and with a little smarts. When you find out what the bank’s evil scheme is, you will roll your eyes; and then when you see how Owen defeats the bank you will roll your eyes again.
Suffice to say, the grandiose title, and the timely premise (not to mention a pretty good actor/director pedigree) set this movie up to be a bigger failure than it should have been. Even if you think you might get some thrill out of seeing an evil bank come to justice, I urge you just to save that money for a better movie (go see Slumdog again). 3 out of 5