Exactly when did Clive Owen start looking so miffed? At birth? He’d win a crossness contest with Daniel Craig – or even with Mark Wahlberg. In Tom (Run Lola Run) Tykwer’s sleek espionage thriller The International, Owen plays Louis Salinger, an Interpol agent pursuing the secret arms trafficking of an international bank, whose employees he confronts as if they’ve just delivered a particularly gross insult to his mother.
Tykwer’s film uses Owen as a seeker of justice with a brow like corrugated iron, but it’s a slight snag that there’s no personality under there. His attempt to nail this corporation is a shell game, shuttling him from the mysterious heart attack of a colleague in Berlin, to a political assassination in Milan, to an elaborate and ridiculously entertaining shoot-out in New York’s Guggenheim Museum. This sequence – alone worth the price of admission – builds beautifully: the Milan gunman (Brian F O’Byrne) has been spied and followed in, meets his contact, and then spots Owen on the other side of the curving walkways. Time almost stops as the bullets fly back and forth, the camera circling and turning the event into its own semi-abstract exhibit – a study in blood.I wish the rest of The International were up to the level of this blazing set piece, but it isn’t, quite. The trail keeps going cold, while Naomi Watts, as the assistant DA on Owen’s side, twiddles with even less to do than she had in Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises. On several key plot points, it needs a rewrite: would these corporate heavies really hire a killer with a traceable metal leg brace?
What sticks in the memory isn’t so much Owen’s seething, one-note vendetta as Tykwer’s modernist flair – the way he frames his sequences using buildings, confining the intrigue inside cold prisms of glass and steel. When a gun goes off in public, he switches to a god’s-eye-view, watching us scurry off every which way, like panicked ants. It’s a smashing directorial job, and lifts the film no end.
You could hardly ask for a tighter hold than Joseph H Lewis has over his 1949 B-movie noir Gun Crazy, reissued in an extended run as part of the BFI’s season dedicated to femmes fatales. Rumour has it this lovers-on-the-lam classic was shot in just 10 days, a production feat given the magic that Lewis conjures with his long takes – he shot the film’s most famous stick-up and breathless getaway from the back seat of a Cadillac, without cutting once over four minutes.
Lewis’s camera-lust is matched by his heroes’ thing for guns, except that Bart (John Dall) baulks at actually using them to kill. No such qualms for the trigger-happy Laurie (Peggy Cummins), an amoral temptress biding her time as a carnival sharpshooter. “She ain’t the type to make a happy home,” warns her boss, before the pair abscond, and Cummins proves that a truer word was never spoken.
The movie’s hedonistic kick is fascinating, and borderline alarming, since it’s toying with every noir fetish about the phallic allure of firepower. Bart’s failure to shoot when it counts is presented as a neurosis – it plays like impotence. Nearly 20 years before the same themes powered Bonnie and Clyde, Lewis was on to the possibilities of “outsider” cinema, and his film is all the more subversive for its origins as raw pulp, unpoliced by the Hollywood system, and getting away with murder.
Source: Telegraph UK