And you thought that Wall Street was bad…

Published 12:09 pm Monday, February 16, 2009

“The International”

Columbia Pictures

Directed by Tom Tykwer

Starring Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Brian F. O’Byrne

Rated R

2 Stars

Even if the new movie “The International” was a complete dud, you’d still have to credit the filmmakers for being able to tap into a future zeitgeist with a movie that postulates that banks (and power-hungry bankers) are behind many of the world’s problems. Sure, that sentiment is a no-brainer today, but when you consider that any movie takes years to go from initial concept to final print, let’s at least acknowledge screenwriter Eric Singer’s prescient ability to turn our current national economic nightmare into a fairly effective pulp thriller.

I only wish that the final story was as strong as that initial concept.

Clive Owen stars as an Interpol agent who suspects that something illegal is happening at a powerful “International” bank, but every time he gets close to exposing a crime, his informants (and other agents) wind up dying. Undeterred, he teams up with a New York Assistant District Attorney (Naomi Watts) and their dogged pursuit of justice causes powerful men to take notice. It’s not long before the bankers call in assassins to put an end to the investigation once and for all.

Okay, it’s not even remotely believable, but it’s still a lot of fun. Perhaps the best example is an over-the-top shootout at the Guggenheim Museum, where a squadron of villains somehow manage to sneak automatic weapons past the museum guards. It’s highly unlikely, but there’s no denying the thrill of watching our hero run up that famous spiral ramp while bullets explode on the wall behind him.

Unfortunately, while this action scene is exciting, it seems ill-fitting in a movie that’s mostly notable for long dialogue scenes where the audience gets a lesson on the pitfalls of international finance run amok. Once again, it seems rather unlikely that banks are behind all of the world’s problems, but in this instance, the talky scenes strain credulity and they will bore you to tears as well.

So the bottom line is that “The International” is a hit-and-miss affair. The concept is intriguing, but poorly realized. Leading man Clive Owen is just okay playing a fairly routine hero, and Naomi Watts is completely wasted in the second-fiddle role. There are some nice action scenes, but they don’t meld well with the overall intellectual premise behind the film. The result is a mediocre thriller that never really turns into anything special.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and weekly on KFDM-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at

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