Opens Fri., Nov. 15 at SouthCenter. Rated R. 108 minutes.
Because of those Transformers movies, Shia LaBeouf gets the rap as a no-talent young journeyman who won the casting lottery. (Being fired by Daniel Sullivan, formerly of Seattle Rep, from this year’s Broadway revival of Orphans didn’t help his reputation.) But when not running from giant robots, LaBeouf hasn’t been terrible in The Company You Keep (as a reporter one step behind his story) or Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (as a financier one step behind Michael Douglas). He never seems to be in command of a movie, even when he lands the starring role. Yet there’s something authentically fugitive and rabbity about the guy, as though he never stops long enough to think anything through. You can’t really imagine him playing a master spy or genius hacker; and it may take another decade to see if he pulls a McConaughey and develops any depth as an actor.
For that reason, LaBeouf works just fine as a scared young Chicago tourist who stumbles into Bucharest’s underworld of gangsters and classical musicians. Innocent, bewildered Charlie knows nothing about handguns or Handel; he just runs through the city with goons and cops on his trail, receives multiple beatings, and falls in love with a lovely young cellist (Evan Rachel Wood). Oh, and one more thing: Charlie sees dead people. There’s even a Sixth Sense joke in Charlie Countryman, which is a little more meta than needed. Charlie communes with the spirits of his kindly mom (Melissa Leo) and the cellist’s wise father (Ion Caramitru). Yet these ghostly interludes are mostly lighthearted—nothing so leaden as M. Night Shyamalan. Effectively shot on location in Romania, Charlie Countryman is fundamentally a chase movie, with Mads Mikkelsen and Til Schweiger the baddies in pursuit of LaBeouf. His Charlie is certainly part of the action, only somehow always one step behind.