| All the ducks seem to be in a row for this American remake of the 2005 French romantic crime drama “Anthony Zimmer.”
The superstar pairing of Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp in the lead roles should do the trick in bringing out their fans in droves. They signed on the dotted line after Tom Cruise, Sam Worthington and Charlize Theron opted out for various reasons including “creative differences.”
Oscar-winning German filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (“The Lives of Others”) ended up in the director’s chair after leaving the project in midstream. Oscar-winning screenwriters Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park” and “The Young Victoria”) and Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects” and “Valkyrie”) cobbled together a script.
The location shoot was in two of the most picturesque cities in the world, Paris and Venice. Oscar-nominated composer James Newton Howard (“Defiance,” “Michael Clayton” and “The Prince of Tides”) prepared a glorious original instrumental score. No expense was spared in the interior designs, costumes and makeup.
However, somebody forgot to put an engine into the machine. The plotless story and lame dialogue are akin to a tiger chasing its own tail.
The movie starts out promising enough with an alluring Elise Clifton-Ward (Jolie) dressed to the nines as the surveillance target being followed by Interpol agents in a sting operation headed by John Acheson (Paul Bettany from “The Da Vinci Code”) from the London office of Scotland Yard. They are trying to locate Alexander Pearce, a criminal mastermind who stole billions from mob boss Reginald Shaw (Steven Berkoff, a former James Bond villain in “Octopussy”) and owes millions in back taxes to England.
Pearce is a man of many disguises and has recently changed his identity through plastic surgery. Elise fell in love with him and they lived together for a year.
Elise receives a note delivered by courier from the elusive fugitive at an outdoor Parisian café. It instructs her to take the morning train from Paris to Venice and “pick someone my height and build, and make them believe it is me.”
She sits opposite Frank Tupelo (Depp), a disheveled man with long unruly hair, a black beard and mustache. He is smoking an electronic cigarette and reading a paperback novel. He is supposedly a widowed math teacher at a community college in Wisconsin.
Elise tells him, “I’m a mysterious woman on a train.” He replies, “Danger awaits you.”
The sappy and instantly forgettable dialogue never gets any better.
This case of mistaken identity leads the cops, gangsters and the audience on a wild goose chase. The rooftops, canals and bridges provide scenic backdrops to sporadic gunfights and speedboat chases. There is zero romantic chemistry between Jolie and Depp, who share a few brief kisses on screen.
Jolie looks very desirable wearing designer wardrobes of furs, gowns and jewelry. Her auburn hair is never out of place. She wears a million dollar smile and the reddest lipstick she could find to accentuate her famous lips. Depp is bland and rather passive in this puzzling role. You never develop a rooting interest in this buffoonish pawn, who speaks Spanish to the Italians and parades around barefoot in his pajamas.
Although predominantly in English, some of the dialogue is in French, Italian and Russian with subtitles. The movie changes tones like a chameleon and is unable to decide if it wants to be a thriller, a romance or a comedic parody. It never amounts to much and runs on empty through most of the 104-minute running time.
Don’t be among the American mainstream tourists trapped into seeing this turkey that has arrived a little late for Thanksgiving.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"