Director: Tom Tykwer
Starring: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts
On at: : See press for showings
But one man has the courage to stop it: Louis Salinger (Clive Owen), a maverick Interpol agent with a past and a few days' worth of designer stubble. After a shadowy IBBC hitman kills his partner and their potential informant, Salinger teams up with New York district attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts) to take on the bank. This results in some unintentionally funny lines. When Salinger wonders, “How can we bring down the bank?” American viewers will feel tempted to respond, “Get it to invest with Bernie Madoff,” while their British counterparts might suggest “Put Fred Goodwin in charge of it.”
But Salinger and Whitman instead dash from one glamorous international locale to another, pursuing anonymous-looking, sinister Europeans in designer suits around menacingly imposing office buildings. Despite being presented as an omnipresent, omnipotent malign force, the bank inexplicably elects to use just one assassin for all its murders, and he has a false leg with a unique footprint, allowing the agents to easily track him. Well, I suppose it's no more ridiculous than asking us to believe that banks would throw piles of cash at borrowers who had no hope of paying it back.
Since the new Bond and Bourne films decreed that secret agent types can no longer be urbane, cheerful and witty, but must be troubled and serious, Owen plays Salinger as downbeat and traumatised, while Watts's Whitman spends the film looking very worried about him. The International clearly aspires to be a Bourne film, but isn't anywhere near as good. The dialogue is too bombastic. When the bank chief demands of Salinger, “What do you want?” and the reply is “I want some ****ing justice”, I almost expected Jack Nicholson to pop up and yell, “You can't handle the truth!” And the cod-Confucianism of pronouncements such as “Sometimes you find your destiny on the road you took to avoid it” also provoke laughs.
But Owen always brings a brooding sex appeal and presence to his movies, no matter how silly they are. The film is slick and stylish, and a preposterously brilliant shootout at New York's Guggenheim art gallery is worth the ticket money alone. But it's all too similar to Bourne to avoid comparison, and inevitably emerges wanting.