- 'THE INTERNATIONAL': Clive Owen and Naomi Watts star.
During my more “experimental” college days, an unbroken span of halcyon afternoons spent hazily munching on the couch and forgetting to go to class, one favorite pastime was ascertaining the degree to which a given television show's writers were stoned. “The Simpsons”? Stoned. “Seinfeld”? Check. “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast”? High as kites. In between time, I was a poli-sci dabbler prone to self-righteous hemming and hawing over international affairs. If asked to take a break from chuckling at pot-driven pratfalls and write a political thriller about the international banking system, I might have come up with something as facile and naive as “The International.”
Here is a film that is not mind-blowing but does seem to be the product of a blown mind. Here is a bank so powerful that it can assassinate nosy American officials quietly and efficiently, right before the eyes of a carefully rumbled Interpol agent. Here is a carefully rumpled Interpol agent so single-minded and obsessed with bringing down said bank that he appears both unhinged and sexless despite getting a lot of screen time with a hot blonde U.S. district attorney played by Naomi Watts. Here is a hot blonde U.S. district attorney played by Naomi Watts who is so clueless and slow on the uptake she registers as little more than someone with her mouth ajar and head cocked, as if her once-promising German director bid her channel a confused little puppy rather than act. Here is a once-promising German director who apparently must atone for having made a string of unsuccessful if interesting films (especially “Perfume”) by trying to pull a cut-rate “Michael Clayton.” Here is a cut-rate “Michael Clayton” that fails to recognize that what made that movie great was not money but smarts. Here is a dumb, dumb movie.
“The International” — which totally lives up to its generic name — does a good bit of globe-trotting without ever seeming to land anywhere. The dastardly bank dabbles in everything from Turkish arms deals to the Middle East conflict to a rebellion in some African country named “Niberia.” Eventually, the bank becomes a catchall for international misdeed and the plot becomes so convoluted that we are left only with inscrutable platitudes, muttered inexplicably by hard-bitten agents to obscure the senselessness of it all.
Eventually and inevitably, the rumpled Interpol agent finds he must work outside the law for justice to be served. Urging Naomi Watts to leave him be so that she won't become further embroiled in his mess, he growls: “There are bridges you cross and bridges you burn. I'm the one you burn.” Actually, you're the one who mixes up all the metaphors.
If this film exists for any reason at all, it's a spectacular 10-minute gunfight in a soundstage reproduction of the Guggenheim. For sheer aplomb, the sequence rivals any unlikely set piece from the “Die Hard” series. That rumpled Interpol agent and a couple of NYC cops track down the bank's go-to assassin to the fifth floor of the famous spiraling museum in order to use him as a witness for the prosecution. There they are attacked by six or so submachine gun-wielding henchmen who a) were hired in lieu of a more sane way to dispose of the witness, b) somehow got into the Guggenheim bearing submachine guns, and c) don't seem to care that there's absolutely no way for them to escape once the job is done. The ensuing circular shootout is disorienting in its loopiness, as if the concept of space has finally been flushed down the toilet along with all other basic sense.