Charlie Countryman (Shia LaBeouf) sees dead people. Or rather, he sees plot devices. Two encounters with the other side push him, respectively, to Bucharest and into the arms of cello-playing, self-aware manic pixie dream girl Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood). Along the way, he meets and gets into trouble with a pair of holidaying losers (James Buckley and Rupert Grint), whose only purpose seem to be to deliver our protagonist into the hands of violent Eastern European mob types, one of which just so happens to be Gabi’s husband, Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen).
We just couldn’t tell if noted plagiarist Shia LeBeouf was trying to do the whole loveable anti-hero thing and failing, or pulling off a wildly successful role as a meddling, touristy American dope. In any case, it was all an over-earnest blur of greasy hair and drooling puppy faces, a combination that did not endear. His supposed romance with Gabi was not only difficult to buy into (get off her and take a shower already, LeBeouf!), it was even set up exactly like a cruel case of self-delusion. Mikkelsen was so magnificent that they could not be called “rivals”—there’s just no competition.
What names like Mikkelsen, Rupert Grint and Melissa Leo are doing in a mess of a film like this, we’ll never know. Perhaps its only redeeming feature is that it serves as a cinematographic window on Bucharest—a city seldom seen on the big screen—which possesses a kind of beauty in squalor, all neon strip clubs and historic architecture. Bucharest nightlife, as depicted here, seems trapped in the 90s, complete with pills, acid and dated outfits, while thug life is gruesome yet exceedingly glamorous. Yep, we’ll take Romanian sleaze over American cheese any time.