The one thing the filmmakers did right was to set their movie in Venice
She is the cosmopolite. He is the innocent abroad. They are Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp - as unlikely a pairing as you will see this year. There are problems. She, who was at her flamboyant best as the title action figure in Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, plays an enigmatic beauty with all the spark of a slightly animated mannequin. He, who can play anything, is stuck in the role of a math teacher from Wisconsin with just the dialogue you might expect from that stereotype. There is no chemistry between the beauty and the math teacher.
Elise Ward (Angelina Jolie) is being tracked by both Scotland Yard and Russian gangsters, all of them looking for $2.3 billion stolen by one infamous Mr. Pierce. Elise will lead them, they are quite sure, to their man. To throw them off the trail of Pierce, her sometime lover, Elise picks up Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp) on a train.
The one thing the filmmakers did right is to set their movie in Venice. While watching Johnny Depp run across the tiled Venetian rooftops in his pajamas or Angelina Jolie driving a speedboat with the controlled formality of a queen, we can at least enjoy the passing landscape of the world's most perfect fairy tale city. And this may have been the plan all along: take two high profile stars of the moment, dress them up and set them down in Venice. It's a cynical move that asks the question: what more could you want?
Stepping onto the sidewalk in the first scene, Jolie is stiffly awkward with perfect hair, perfect clothes. It seems as if she has become a prisoner of her own fame, that she is confusing gravity with dignity. She should know that it's okay for a global diplomat and famous mother to have fun making movies, that she doesn't have to prove herself any more. This one is full of the action she can do so well and we needed to know she was having a good time being chased over the waterways of Venice. She needed a wink in her eye.
As for Johnny Depp, he wears a helmet of long corkscrew curls and a complicated concoction of contemporary facial foliage. In his defense, he has no good lines. For dialogue, try "Send me back up to the fruit market;" and "I think we've lost them!" It can be said, without a whit of exaggeration, that the English and the Russians are cornball caricatures which raises the question of whether this is a comedy or a suspense thriller. When the audience doesn't know the answer to that one, failure is at hand. Nothing is more fun than a fast paced suspense tale that bestows the gift of sudden appreciative laughter on a tense audience. But even with a dazzling script, sparks probably wouldn't have flown between Depp and Jolie. This movie tries, but fails to be The Thomas Crown Affair.
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