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The Tourist PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sheila Seacroft   
22 12 2010

ImageDirected by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Mamma mia! Venice as a setting can make many a second-rate film worth watching, and it just about manages it here, but only by the skin of its beautiful teeth. Quite what I expected here from FHvD, director of The Lives of Others, I'm not sure, but certainly not this. Whereas a romantic comedy thriller should snap-crackle-pop, this is more like porridge, with the occasional slather of oversweet honey. You'd think an experienced director taking on a tricky genre like this would have some understanding and feel for it, or why would he want to make it in the first place?

Apparently Angelina told Vogue that she agreed to do the movie because she fancied a ‘quick shoot' in Venice. At least she seems not to be taking herself or the plot too seriously. Someone should at least have told Johnny Depp that it's essentially a caper, and not to play his dorky math teacher quite so realistically. Where's this generation's Cary Grant when you need him?

The plot - well it doesn't really matter, it's one of those tales that doesn't hold up for a moment - earnest Brit-cops (poor old Paul Bettany and Timothy Dalton giving it their all) are on the trail of a dashing crook who's pinched several hundred million pounds from the exchequer, but he's had plastic surgery that's changed his appearance so much that he's unrecognizable. They're tailing his glamorous accomplice (Jolie), believing she will lead them to him and the money. Also in pursuit are Steven Berkoff with his gooseberry eyes aglow, plus his thicko Russian henchmen, the kind who ho-ho-ho in that creepy-slimy way at violence, and knock tiles off fair Venetian roofs as they chase the pyjama-clad Frank (Depp), providing the first really disquieting step change as in a heavy moment of knockabout farce he falls off and catapults a policeman into the canal. How we roar!

It's basically a remake of a Belgian film of 2005 - Anthony Zimmer, which itself owes a considerable debt to Hitchcockian capers like To Catch a Thief and North by North West. With bluff and double bluff, and lots of opulent scenes, with La Jolie looking scrumptious, if you like big sticky lips, as she prances through Venice and every man stares, and with a screenplay surprisingly written in part by Julian (Lord) Fellowes, (a positive Almanach de Gotha lineup, what with the aristocratic FHvD too!) it should be a lot of fun. But every scene lasts that bit too long, and some are just too darn stupid, (e.g. the big set-piece Venetian Ball, with Bettany on the balcony bellowing down his sleeve to his surveillance team and no one noticing, and Depp and Jolie joining in an apparently impromptu formal dance as they argue their points, which must have seemed a good idea at the time), and the chemistry between the leads is surprisingly nil. As an escape from the foul English weather into the sunny and glamorous world of make-believe it just about passes muster, but really it should be so much better. Stick to the serious stuff, FHvD.

Seen at Sunderland Empire, 21 December 2010

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