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Shia LaBeouf is not an artist…even if he was raped for the sake of art during his stupid exhibit.

Regardless of what you think about LaBeowulf’s antics, there’s no arguing that he’s capable of a great acting performance. There’s something deep down in there. Shia LaBeouf rises to the occasion in Charlie Countryman—currently streaming on Netflix. With a certain undeniable charm and charisma, LaBeouf plays the titular character dealing with the devastating loss of his mother in the beginning of the movie.

Charlie is a weird fellow. After his mother dies, a grieving Charlie envisions her spirit so that they can have one last conversation. When he asks what he should do now, his mother (played by Melissa Leo) tells him to go to Bucharest. It’s an obvious hallucination, but it reveals Charlie’s rather fragile mental state.

Shia LaBeouf

But there’s a beautiful message hidden in that interaction between Charlie and his dead mother. The lasting image in Charlie’s head was his mother sick and suffering with tubes running through her in the hospital. No one wants to remember a loved on that way. Instead of that painful memory, his dead mother replaces it with a happier time when they were fishing off a dock and having fun during a bright summer day.

It’s a lesson we should all learn: don’t dwell on the bad and truly treasure the good times.

From that moment, I was hooked on this movie.

Charlie Countryman is somewhat unconventional. In a classic sense, this movie is about a budding romance between Charlie and Gabi Ibanescu (played by Evan Rachel Wood). But make no mistake, this is not a romantic comedy. Why? Because there’s a dark, dangerous presence looming over Gabi.

And he goes by the name Nigel (played by Mads Mikkelsen).

Unbeknownst to Charlie, Gabi is still kinda married to Nigel—a dangerous gangster that gives zero fucks about anything. Mads Mikkelsen is magnificent in this movie and everything else I’ve ever watched him in—namely, the TV version of Hannibal and what should have been last year’s Foreign Film winner, The Hunt. Words cannot do justice to Mikkelsen’s performance in Charlie Countryman.

From his fucking eyes, you instantly feel the intensity burning inside Mads Mikkelsen. The rage is right there simmering under the surface and waiting for an excuse to release its ferocity. Even as an audience, you’re scared of him. Nigel is a brutal man and his presence makes this movie great.

Public Beating

“Enjoy your new mates and your recreational drugs and the rest of it while you can. God knows it can all turn into blood in a blink of an eye.” – Nigel

Amazingly, Charlie doesn’t blink. Despite several warnings from Gabi, Charlie doesn’t back down from Nigel and impending peril. Both Shia LaBeouf and the character Charlie are putting their hearts out there. Undeniably, this is LaBeouf’s greatest acting performance. I am appalled that Zac Efron was briefly given this role—thankfully, LaBeouf returned after initially dropping out. You feel everything that Charlie feels because of Shia LaBeouf, and I wish he would just get his shit together once and for all.

Shia LaBeouf and Mads Mikkelsen certainly elevate Charlie Countryman, but there’s an entire supporting cast of characters that are also worth mentioning. On his way to Bucharest, Charlie is unknowingly sitting next Gabi’s father, Victor Ibanescu (played by Ion Caramitru). Victor’s character and Ion Caramitru’s performance are very memorable albeit very brief. Darko (played by Til Schweiger) is another menacing gangster—though of the Russian persuasion. At the hostel where Charlie is staying, his two roommates are Karl (played by Rupert Grint) and Luc (played by James Buckley). During the middle of this movie, these two characters provide much-needed comic relief as Charlie’s friends. Melissa Leo is good as Charlie’s crazy mom, Kate. Even Vincent D’Onofrio makes a cameo in the beginning as Charlie’s stepdad, Bill.

A movie is that much better when the supporting cast actually fulfills its role to support the movie.

Mads Mikkelsen

Charlie Countryman was written by Matt Drake and directed by Frederik Bond in his debut.

If there’s a downside, it’s that the movie doesn’t feel polished. The pace wanes a bit in the second act and the ending isn’t handled as well as it could/should be, but it still doesn’t detract from your overall enjoyment of the movie. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like Charlie Countryman will find the audience that it deserves. Hopefully, this review will lead some people to put it in their queue (My List or whatever the fuck Netflix is calling it these days) and enjoy the experience that is Charlie Countryman.

Even if this movie is forgotten by most, I’m convinced there will be a movie in the near future where Mads Mikkelsen gets an opportunity to once again shine as a vicious, menacing character. If you learn nothing else, learn that you don’t want to cross paths with Mads Mikkelsen in a dark alley.

Cool Way to Go

4.5 out of 5 stars

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