Image courtesy of Sundance Institute
Most reviewers have hated on The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman for its weak story line and failure to engage the audience—even when it gets dramatic—at Sundance Film Festival. And it is bad, but it’s not all bad.
With some pretty cool visual effects and photography, along with Shia LaBeouf’s admission to actually dropping acid for the role, it has the potential to reach cult status. It’s just too bad the story isn’t as good as other drug movies, like Trainspotting, and, other than Charlie Countryman, most characters seem one dimensional.
The film follows Chicago kid Charlie Countryman (Shia LaBeouf), who has a vision of his deceased mother telling him to go to Bucharest. Why Bucharest? Why the hell not? Charlie makes friends with a Romanian musician who dies on the plane. He later falls in love with the man’s daughter Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood), but that puts him in conflict with Gabi’s sadistic husband Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen) and club owner Darko (Til Schweiger).
Legendary English actor John Hurt does the hope-filled narration through much of the film, which was a nice thought, but didn’t actually fit the dark mood of the film. To be completely honest, it got kind of annoying.
Charlie’s “trips” throughout the movie offer some cool visuals, like seeing his mother’s spirit leave her body. Drugs come into play even more when Charlie meets Luke (James Buckley) and Carl (Rupert Grint) at a Bucharest hostel. Grint, who played Ron in the Harry Potter series, takes the unexpected role of a bloke in Bucharest who does ecstasy and aspires to become a porn star.
There are a bunch of scenes to laugh at, but some that are supposed to be funny just make you say, “Umm . . . Ok?” Examples are Charlie getting hit by a car, just to have a midget and dog staring at him. In another, two ambulance drivers crawl out of their flipped vehicle after a tragic accident very happy that the “hash” is still ok.
The ending, which is also the beginning, is just as confusing as the rest of the movie.
Bottom line: If you want to see some cool visual effects, Rupert Grint get stoned and Shia LaBeouf get punched in the face repeatedly, this is the film for you. If you want good storytelling, opt for another Sundance film.