We may never know the truth about Charlie. Demme fills his European vacation with endless lies fed to us by self-serving criminals. The result circles endlessly around a thin mystery that the director punches up with inspired visual tricks, though logic would have been preferred.
Regina Lambert (Thandie Newton) returns from holiday to find her Parisian flat demolished and her husband, Charlie, murdered. Eventually, the police unveil the truth about Charlie: He worked undercover as a member of a secret government agency, the Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC). A kindly stranger (Mark Wahlberg) Regina previously met in the Caribbean offers to help this damsel in distress, who now must fend off three of her husband's former cohorts seeking a fortune Charlie hid from them following a botched mission.
By placing us in Regina's shoes, Demme keeps the audience approximately two tango steps behind the action. Sexy and exotic, Newton proves she can play both spunky and vulnerable. But with spicy European locales as his backdrop, the painfully American Wahlberg comes off as bland and one-note. And Tim Robbins, playing an ODC official, attempts a bizarre foreign accent that feels more Boston than Belgium.
Through its first act, Charlie keeps us entertained with flashy P.O.V. shots and distracting, off-center camera angles. Demme just can't maintain the pace, and his bullet train grinds to a dull crawl before too long. If anything, the director begins to overload us with pointless vignettes that mesh inconsistently with assorted nonsensical plot twists and a far-fetched romance. What we could have used was a few more shots that unraveled this mess of a mystery.
Demme's visual experiments ultimately can't disguise the fact that he's working from an overly complex and ultimately illogical script. Identities get traded faster than baseball cards at summer camp, and Demme never explains how or why allegiances are formed or broken. Chunks of scenes feel like dream sequences, except no one ever wakes up. The result is a convoluted nightmare.
The truth went thataway!
Run time: 104 mins
In Theaters: Friday 25th October 2002
Box Office USA: $5.3M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Universal Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Fresh: 44 Rotten: 88
IMDB: 4.8 / 10
Director: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Mark Wahlberg as Lewis Bartholamew, Thandie Newton as Regina Lambert, Tim Robbins as Carson J. Dyle, Christine Boisson as Commandant Dominique, Lisa Gay Hamilton as Lola Jansco, Park Joong-Hoon as Il-Sang Lee, Ted Levine as Emil Zadapec, Stephen Dillane as Charlie