GENRE: Intellectual thriller.
THE PITCH: A mysterious note from master thief Alexander Pierce prompts his love interest Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) to involve an American school teacher, Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp) into a game of intrigue with Scotland Yard and the British mafia. As the situation heats up in more ways than one, only one question remains: who is Alexander Pierce.
MONEY SHOT: Tupelo, dressed in pajamas flees from a couple of mafia goons by climbing through a window and makes his escape on the red tiled rooftops of Venice. There are lots of near misses from gunfire and a couple of jumps and near falls that make this scene memorable. Depps Chaplain-esque (or Captain Jack Sparrow - you decide) mannerism is surprisingly light and comical in the height of the fray.
BEST LINES: Sitting across from one another on a train, Elise and Frank engage in a flirtatious tet-a-tet. After revealing his rather nominal backstory, he asks to learn more about Elise, to which she replies, "You read spy novels - I'm a mysterious woman on a train, you tell me."
SOUND AS A POUND: Scotland Yard is in pursuit of Alexander Pierce for withholding taxes on money held in an Swiss bank account. The Sum of 2.7 billion pounds (4.27 billion U.S. dollars) was stolen from the mafia. 744 million of that is due to the crown. That's 1.18 billion in dollars.
ON LOCATION: The film starts with Elise visiting a small café in Paris, France. She then boards a commuter train where she meets Frank. The remainder of the film takes place along the canals of Venice, Italy.
BEEN THERE, (THEY) DONE THAT: You can't help but notice how the actor's portrayal of their characters in this film mimic some of their earlier works. Jolie's Elise reminds you of her Lara Croft from the Lara Croft: Tombraider series, minus the arsenal of gadgets. Johnny Depp's Frank is a bumbling, though calculating goof. He definitely channels Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean films), especially in scenes where you see some eyeliner (real lashes my foot). Scotland Yard's cool and collected Chief Inspector Jones (Timothy Dalton) was 007, James Bond in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill. The only character that isn't cut from the actor's repertoire is Inspector Acheson (Paul Bettany) who as an agent is Hell bent, no matter the cost to bring the elusive Pierce to justice.
BODY COUNT: Considering this is a film involving the mafia and Europe's muscled police squad Scotland Yard, you'd think there'd be a lot of body bags. That said, there's only five people killed in the film, and all of the victims just so happen to be bad guys.
BOTTOM LINE: Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck may have wowed the critics and won an Oscar with his first feature film, The Lives of Others, but he puts you to sleep with this sophomoric effort. Poised as a clever take on a romantic thriller, the story doesn't have any "umph" to make it memorable in style, tone or character. I know the Brits are stereotyped as stuffed shirts and a math teacher from Wisconsin would surely make strange bedfellows, but Jolie and Depp lack the heat to make this runaway love affair believable. Tack on a mediocre script and some unappealing action sequences and this cat and mouse film regrettably feels more like a stripped down version of the worst Bond film, without the 007. In other words, a pompous bore.