- Rated R
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
ou can see why Clive Owen and Naomi Watts would be interested in a movie like “The International.” After all, when the director of the 1999 indie smash “Run Lola Run” finally picks a project with which to make his American debut, you just know it will be something spectacular…right? Right, if your definition of ‘spectacular’ is synonymous with ‘languid’ and ‘anti-climactic.’ There is certainly a story to be had out of the idea behind “The International” (though admittedly a slightly ridiculous one), but a little more cat-and-mouse and less hiding in plain sight, along with a faster pace, would have worked wonders.
Owen is Louis Salinger, an Interpol detective who has dedicated his life to bringing down the International Bank of Business and Credit, a German bank that specializes in arms dealing and funding coups but is virtually untouchable courtesy of the complexities of international law. Salinger has been trying to put these guys down since his days at Scotland Yard, but just when he finds someone willing to talk, either his witness is killed or the case is stalled by his superiors. New York district attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts) has offered her services to the cause, but she is also being pressured to produce a witness or let it go, even after an assailant hits her with a car. Salinger and Whitman catch a break after a key figure in the case is assassinated, and quickly find out the lengths that IBBC will go to maintain business as usual.
The key to a good conspiracy thriller is that there is at least a seed of doubt that the villains are actually villains, at least at first. “The International,” meanwhile, shows the bank’s CEO discussing a business arrangement with an African general in their own offices. Isn’t the point of banks that deal in ill gotten funds that they offer some level of anonymity with regards to their client base? If every gangster in the world is coming in for a visit, it shouldn’t be hard to put some kind of case against them, yes? It’s one thing to have a character be arrogant enough to flaunt his immunity, but the way that this movie reveals every one of IBBC’s moves before they make it – not to mention the ‘why bother?’ ending – you end up with nothing hanging in the balance, and no resolution.
And then suddenly, in the middle of the movie and out of nowhere, a crazy, five-minute shootout takes place at the Guggenheim, where IBBC sends wave after wave of gunmen to take out Salinger and the New York cops assigned to help him acquire an accomplice. After it ends, the movie downshifts back to first gear, and coasts to the end. (It should surprise no one that the nearly all of the marketing of this movie is focused on the Guggenheim scene.) It’s as if director Tom Tykwer is trying as hard as he can not to repeat any of the techniques from “Run Lola Run” as a way of proving his versatility, but it is those very abilities that likely got him the gig in the first place. There were times when even the actors, Owen in particular, looked exasperated with what’s happening around them.
If someone is going to make a movie about an evil bank, where the story pulls no punches about the evil bank’s intentions or diabolical schemes, then it should be a comedy. It’s a pity the screenwriter didn’t sell the script for “The International” to Warner Brothers. They could have retro-fitted it for the next “Get Smart” movie.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
There are not a lot of extra features on the DVD for "The International," but the ones they provide are in-depth, to be sure. There is only one deleted scene, but it's a rather good 11-minute scene, featuring Clive Owen's character dealing with his daughter. The making-of featurette, which covers everything from the story to costuming to location scouting, is 30 minutes long. There is a neat (and brief) bit on recreating the Guggenheim, and another on using the Autostadt, which is Volkswagen's headquarters, as the home office for the IBBC. Director Tom Tykwer and screenwriter Eric Singer also contribute an audio commentary. It's a pretty expansive set of extras for a movie that didn't quite perform to expectations at the box office.