Synopsis: Frank (Johnny Depp), an American tourist, visits Italy to mend a broken heart. Elise (Angelina Jolie) is an extraordinary woman who deliberately crosses his path. Against the breathtaking backdrop of Venice, Frank pursues a potential romance but soon finds himself then pursued as he and Elise are caught in a whirlwind of intrigue and danger.
Megawatt stars dim the lights for this dull farce.
Nobody comes out of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Tourist happier for the experience – save perhaps for the countless Italian extras who may now regale new acquaintances with “I held the door for Angelina Jolie!” anecdotes. The combination of two lazy, smug performances from its over-confident stars and a director mismatched with his material make for 2010’s biggest “It seemed like a good idea at the time...” dud.
Understandably, expectation was high that the photogenic combination of uber-glamorous A-listers Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie would be multiplex manna-from-heaven, especially with both leads seemingly content to drop their ‘serious actor’ pretensions to wallow in full-on Movie Star-dom. Perhaps they imagined that teaming with the Oscar-winning German director (The Lives of Others, 2006) for his first American film would give this wafer-thin confection some critical validation; the adaptation of Jérôme Salle’s source material for the French thriller Anthony Zimmer (2005) had potential, given the award-worthy reputations of top-tier penmen Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park, 2001) and Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, 1995).
Yet when the elements converge on-screen, against the backdrop of John Seales’ lush framing of the Venice setting, the result is a lifeless, plodding exercise in vapid star-wattage. Depp and Jolie have delivered some seriously bad films in their respective filmographies (he – Nick of Time, 1995, and The Astronaut's Wife, 1999; she – Pushing Tin, 1999, and Beyond Borders, 2003); every actor has them. But no one could have envisioned that their pairing – much-anticipated as it was by the rabidly devoted gossip magazines, and their own drooling fanbases – would represent career nadirs for both.
As the gorgeous Brit Elise Clifton-Ward, Jolie is all angular cheekbones and smug sideways glances, decked out in Euro-glamour rags and striding over cobblestone footpaths in stiletto heels without a care in the world. So long are her legs, determined is her gait and haughty her demeanour, that she occasionally resembles a well-dressed giraffe. Her character is the focus of a combined Scotland Yard-Interpol surveillance operation, because of a long-term relationship with the mysterious, uncatchable criminal – mastermind Alexander Pearce. The international police force is overseen by Inspector John Acheson, a role played by Paul Bettany as a simpering, snivelling grump who audiences instantly know will not win out in the end (it’s a thankless, awful role for the talented actor).
To lead the police astray, Pearce orders Elise to start a friendship with a random stranger that looks like him. The rube is Johnny Depp’s Frank Tupelo, an American maths teacher whose awkwardness Elise begins to find appealing. Depp doesn’t do ‘real’ very well; his pasty patsy is far and away the actor’s least-mannered and, subsequently, most boring film role ever. Rarely do his facial mannerisms or vocal range rise above a monotone. The interaction between Jolie’s slow-blinking, smirking woman-of-few-words and Depp’s droopy-eyed milquetoast generates zero chemistry; their early dialogue scenes (during an interminably long train voyage) and subsequent moments in Venice are just terrible.
Others are after Pearce via Elise – gangster Reginald Shaw (Steven Berkoff, who has had a lock on ‘creepy crime-boss’ roles since playing Victor Maitland in Beverly Hills Cop, 1984) and an unnamed dapper-gent, billed as The Englishman (faded leading man Rufus Sewell). All support characters are utterly one-dimensional and disposable, it must be said. Occasional action sequences are amateurish – Depp’s flight across the Venice rooftops is poorly blue-screened (as are a number of key scenes, including the woeful final moments); a speedboat chase through the famous canals is so listless and momentum-free it more closely resembles runaway paddle-boats at a fun park. (The waterways of the city have provided far more adrenalized thrills in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, 1989, the James Bond adventures From Russia With Love, 1963 and Moonraker, 1979 and the 2003 remake of The Italian Job).
The Tourist’s greatest shortcoming is that it never becomes...anything. The romance is nullified by D.O.A. starpower; the self-conscious glamour on show merely seems like tinsel on a dying Christmas tree; as a thriller it is completely stagnant. In trying to create an old-fashioned, well-credentialed romantic mystery, Jolie, Depp and Donnersmarck may have all but killed off the genre.
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