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The International: Hardly Credible But Still Intriguing

If ever there was a time to release a movie about a nefarious bank, it's now.

by
Kyle Smith

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February 13, 2009 - 12:03 am
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Is there common ground between James Bond and the Wall Street Journal? To put it another way: Can you make a credible and intriguing movie with complex multinational banking deals undertaking the role of villain, yet somehow have it all boil down to one guy with a gun chasing another guy across a rooftop? The answer is: yes and no. The International is hardly credible but it is intriguing, thanks to the furious concentration with which it is directed by  German filmmaker Tom Tykwer, who also presided over the somewhat overly sweaty Run Lola Run and the mesmerizing erotic fable Perfume.

Clive Owen, one of the most fully committed actors working today, is another reason the film manages to seize your full attention for two entertaining hours, even if you depart with a shrug and a scratch of the head. Owen plays a bedraggled Interpol agent, Louis Salinger, who has been kicked out of Scotland Yard while pursuing the activities of the International Bank of Business and Credit, which is involved in buying arms and selling them to African strongmen.

Salinger’s counterpart in New York City, an assistant district attorney (Naomi Watts), joins him in his righteous zeal to unravel the mysteries of the bank but there are no sparks between the two, no snappy give-and-take, and not even much of a friendship. Watts’ character is in it strictly to play the sidekick. She could be a guy and it would make absolutely no difference. She doesn’t really need to be here at all. She does, however, keep alive her amazing crying streak in virtually every role. The woman could do Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 and find a reason to bawl.

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