McGinnis: Depp and Jolie thriller fails to exciteWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | email@example.com
Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp are two of the best and most attractive actors in the world today. If anyone had the opportunity to cast them together in a movie, they’d think it a slam dunk and do it in a heartbeat. How curious, then, the lack of chemistry that seems to exist between the two of them in the new romantic thriller “The Tourist.” At one point, when Jolie confesses to Depp that she’s falling for him, we’re not sure we believe it. Even though he’s Johnny Freaking Depp.
Look at their first meeting, for example. They meet on a train, as all strangers traveling through Europe are required to do. She sits with him and makes small talk. Very small. The dialogue is practically non-existent, in fact. Depp has a character quirk in the electronic cigarette he smokes, but otherwise, nothing of interest occurs. The movie should come alive when its two leads first share the screen. Instead it seems to fall asleep.
Now, granted, at the very beginning, the two leads shouldn’t have real chemistry. She’s the lover of an international thief who’s on the run. She comes on to Depp in an effort to throw off the authorities. But as the movie progresses, nothing resembling real romantic or dramatic tension seems to rise between them. We’re always looking at two talented actors who always seem to be somewhat disconnected with each other.
Depp is a fine, fine performer, one of our best. So good, in fact, that he might be totally wrong for this material. He’s playing a mousy little teacher who seemingly ends up in over his head. But Depp commits so fully to his character’s shy and weak nature that the audience really has no way to sympathize with him. By the same token, Jolie stands around looking aloof and beautiful, something she does very well. But then again, so does a store mannequin. Don’t you think a performer as good as Jolie would want a more meaty role than this?
The story is a standard lovers-on-the-run tale, involving money stolen from criminals, cops on the trail of everyone, false alarms, surprises and so forth. The lion’s share of the action takes place in Venice, and the city successfully steals the show. It’s impossible to film an uninteresting shot in Venice. You just point a camera somewhere — anywhere — and it’s just breathtaking. If anything on screen could distract us from the intoxicating sight of Jolie’s lips, Venice is it.
Meanwhile, the story just kinda meanders along, never seeming particularly urgent or exciting. A friend of mine said she felt it would have worked much better as a short subject, and she’s right — we essentially have 40 minutes of an interesting story, spread out over a two hour movie. The pace seems somewhat lethargic for an action thriller. When a chase scene happens involving a couple of powerboats, even the boats seem to be moving at half speed.
This could all be forgiven if the film added some intriguing dialogue or characters to the mix, but no luck. The closest to wit Depp gets is when he confuses “ravenous” and “ravishing” when referring to Jolie. The bad guys chasing them are your standard evil mad men who pop up to threaten and never, ever hit anyone with a single shot. The police on the case are headed up by Paul Bettany, who is obsessed with catching Jolie’s real lover at the expense of anything else, but other than being the typical bumbling cop who makes almost every dumb move possible, he doesn’t really add much.
The director and co-writer, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, also made the Oscar-winning German film “The Lives of Others” in 2006. As a first step into mainstream Hollywood filmmaking, von Donnersmarck has made a good-looking but not particularly engaging picture, one which seems to have everything going for it but a reason to be. Even its big surprise at the end is undermined by the fact that a.) it makes little sense given everything that’s come before, and b.) regardless, most everyone in the audience has figured it out long before the end comes.
I go back to the casting. Maybe the movie would have been improved with a little more imagination in its leads. Rufus Sewell, the wonderful star of “Dark City,” has a throwaway role here. Maybe if he had played Depp’s role, the movie would have sparked with a little less convention. Or if Depp and Bettany had swapped roles. Or if someone had taken another stab at adding some dialogue that was worth hearing. We’re left with a missed opportunity of a movie, which seems to do as little as it can and then stops. Some may enjoy it for what it is. In a packed movie season, however, there are certainly bigger fish to fry.