'Shia LaBeouf IS Charlie Countryman," the poster for Charlie Countryman declares, as if hordes of Transformers fans will take one look at the tagline and stampede to the multiplexes.
Unlikely. But if they do, what they will find is a far scruffier, more melancholy LaBeouf. His Charlie is a man at the end of a relationship (Aubrey Plaza has the adios scene), who has just stood bedside in a hospital, weeping as his mother dies. Yes, that's Melissa Leo with the tubes and the respirator, but don't worry, she comes back in apparitional form. And her last piece of advice to her son: Go to Bucharest.
Which he does. And which is where most of Charlie Countryman transpires, after a fateful plane trip and some unpleasant business with Romanian customs officers.
So Charlie wanders around and meets the henna-haired Gabi Ibanescu (Evan Rachel Wood, thick with accent), who happens to be the daughter of the man he sat next to on his flight. She is a cellist in the Bucharest Opera orchestra, and also the wife of a gangland madman (Mads Mikkelsen). They know her well, too, at a strip club Charlie visits with his youth hostel roomies (James Buckley and Harry Potter's Rupert Grint). Gabi's past is shadier than a tree-lined path in the Cismigiu Gardens.
Charlie Countryman, directed by first-timer Fredrik Bond, boasts several efficient chase scenes, car crashes, and slo-mo moments of emotiveness. There's underworld intrigue, and Bucharest gets to show itself off nicely. Between the menace and the landmarks, Charlie stalks Gabi, insisting that they are destined for each other, that they are an "us," working some drippy similes about oysters and pearls into his entreaties.
Wood, for her part, can appear sad, or seductive, or mysterious, or happy, or lovestruck, or deeply troubled. Gabi is also very good with a gun, so look out.
Charlie Countryman **1/2 (Out of four stars)
Directed by Fredrik Bond. With Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelsen, and Melissa Leo. Distributed by Millennium Entertainment.
Running time: 1 hour, 43 mins.
Parent's guide: R (violence, nudity, sex, profanity, adult themes)
Playing at: AMC Cherry Hill/NJ