The Director Packed Lightly
Starring: Johnny Depp. Angelina Jolie
Written by Sam Wood
The poster for this film promises two things: Depp and Jolie. And I cannot deny that the film does indeed feature Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie! They are in nearly every scene. They walk around. They speak. They make goo-goo eyes. In this sense, the film succeeds admirably in its intentions.
The trailer, however, promises a bit more. It’s a thriller, it’s a romance, it’s humorous, it’s an action film. Depp plays Frank, a tourist trying to mend a broken heart. He is picked up by a rich, mysterious woman named Elise (Jolie), who is on the run from gangsters and Scotland Yard. Paris! Venice! Romance!
And here is where we begin to get sticky, because this film wants to be a lot of things, but in the end it fails to deliver satisfactorily on any of those counts.
The purported “romance” consists of a lot of awkward pauses, bored expressions, and the occasional set of puppy dog eyes—or worse, the monotone recitation of lines like, “But I love you.” Elise struts from city to city (with the cameraman faithfully following her posterior) and Frank stumbles after her in hapless confusion. Elise is meeting up with her husband, Alexander, the man who stole billions from a gangster and then didn’t pay any taxes on it. Elise still loves her husband, but inexplicably also falls for Frank, despite the fact that they don’t have any sexual chemistry or even anything to talk about (did I mention the awkward pauses?). It is supposed to be a love triangle, but the triangle is missing a leg. I had no real sense of who Alexander was or why I should care if he came back. And I certainly didn’t care whether she stayed with Frank. It was all just too vague. Too uninteresting.
The “thriller” element, unfortunately, wasn’t any more pronounced. The lead villain is named Reginald Shaw, a mega-rich criminal who, we are told multiple times, killed every man his wife slept with before him, and then killed his wife for sleeping with them. Okay! He surrounds himself with Russian gangsters for some reason, and has terrible taste in coats. He is straight out of the dumb thug category of villains. Example: if you are trying to ambush somebody you probably shouldn’t stand in front of the giant glass windows. Everybody knows you are in there, dude!
Jolie appeared to be so focused on maintaining a posh British accent that she had no remaining energy to force emotional inflections. For nearly an hour and a half she put off nothing but smug or bored vibes, then for the last fifteen minutes she was in love with everybody and I don’t know what was going on.
Depp, meanwhile, was at least moderately amusing as a bumbling American tourist, but after the first ten minutes it wore really thin. The film’s humor relied much too heavily on a pair of running gags. Haha, Frank keeps using Spanish phrases but they’re in Italy! Haha, Frank smokes electronic cigarettes and everybody else gets to smoke real ones!
Seriously. I wasn’t sure if this was bizarre product placement for electronic cigarettes or just a really clumsy attempt at characterization. Maybe both.
And I can’t let this rest without mentioning the soundtrack. The soundtrack drove me crazy, and it probably made the movie a lot worse than it otherwise might have been. Ninety percent of the time the footage was accompanied by this slow, sappy score that made me want to go to sleep. Long shots of furniture, long shots of clothing, long shots of Jolie staring out windows, long shots of everything! And the longest bed-time scene of all time. Jolie taking out her nightgown. Depp taking out his trousers. Jolie unfastening her hair. Depp unfolding a blanket. Ugh, you promised me action!
Then, when there was action (read: Depp runs across some roof tiles and Jolie gets shot at in a boat), it was accompanied by some even more annoying and incongruous clippity-clop horse-like music. “Cruel world!” I cried, “I will stop complaining about the instrumentals!”
And I won’t even talk about the “twist ending.” Just shoot me instead.
The highlight of the film? Timothy Dalton playing the incessantly aggravated Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard. I’m aggravated too, Chief Inspector, I’m aggravated too.