Thursday, February 19, 2009

Clive Owen's 'International' Appeal

Clive Owen's 'International' Appeal
Friday, February 13, 2009; WE31

If "The International" were an article of clothing, it would be a steel-gray cashmere sweater. If it were a place, it would be the first-class lounge of a major metropolitan airport. If it were weather, it would be a wintry mix of drizzle with the occasional flurry.

And if this sleek, stylish thriller were a person, well, it would be Clive Owen, who happens to carry "The International" on his strong and handsome shoulders with the unflappable cool that still makes some of us rue the day he wasn't cast as James Bond. Owen plays Interpol agent Lou Salinger, a gruff, obsessed loner who for years has been on the trail of a corrupt bank (based on the real-life Bank of Credit and Commerce International). Now he's working with the Manhattan district attorney's office, specifically a comely assistant D.A. named Ella Whitman, played in an unobjectionable if undistinguished performance by Naomi Watts.

Directed by Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run") with sober forthrightness, "The International" is in many ways a throwback to the monochrome urban thrillers of the 1970s, with the added and topical twist of having a diabolical financial institution at its center. Garbled at times (I'm still confused by a scene at a flower stand in Milan), the movie still hums along with attractive, smooth efficiency. The compulsively watchable Owen makes for an ideal leading man of both action and angst. The film's eye-popping set piece, a shootout at the Guggenheim Museum, is an extravagantly choreographed valentine to philistines everywhere.

-- Ann Hornaday

The International R, 116 minutes Contains violence and profanity. Area theaters.

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