Like an elegantly wrapped Christmas gift with a cheap toy inside, “The Tourist” is a tantalizing package containing nothing worthwhile. Glowing with the star power of Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp and a lush Venice setting, this Hitchcock wannabe is a tepid thriller that sinks faster than that waterlogged city.
A remake of the obscure 2005 French film “Anthony Zimmer,” the movie tries to compensate for its dramatic frailness with rooftop chases, canal boat collisions, designer costumes, and opulent hotels and ballrooms. But the diversions can’t mask the glaring lack of chemistry between the stars, witless script and haphazard direction by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
Von Donnersmarck won an Oscar for his 2006 feature debut, “The Lives of Others,” a lean, chilling look at the East German police state in the 1980s. He parlayed that success into this glitzy big-budget adventure, which originally was going to feature Tom Cruise and Charlize Theron.
His transition to Hollywood filmmaking is painfully awkward.
Most embarrassing are the mannequin-like performances by Jolie and Depp. Jolie does a faux British accent and struts around in gorgeous dresses, while Depp mumbles inanities and sports a straggly hairdo that makes him look like he just got out of a homeless shelter.
Chased by Gangster
Jolie plays Elise, a mysterious woman who meets mild-mannered American math teacher Frank (Depp) on a train from Paris to Venice and ensnares him in a web of intrigue involving her criminal boyfriend Alexander. Alexander is being chased by a British gangster (Steven Berkoff) he stole a fortune from and by Scotland Yard investigators (led by Paul Bettany) who want him to pay taxes on his ill-gotten gains.
Elise tries to throw everyone off Alexander’s trail by convincing them that Frank is actually her lover, who may or may not have drastically altered his appearance with plastic surgery. Meanwhile, Elise and Frank engage in a Beauty and the Beast flirtation that makes even less sense than hiring von Donnersmarck as director.
“The Tourist” borrows its mistaken identity theme and other touches from “North by Northwest,” but that’s where the similarities end. Hitchcock was the master of suspense. The biggest mystery in “The Tourist” is why it ever got made.
“The Tourist,” from Columbia Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: *1/2
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)