Take two of the biggest names in the film world – Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, and set them down in two of the most beautiful and most visited cities in the world, Paris and Venice, and you’ve got two of the most important ingredients for a successful movie. Now if you also have a great script, top-notch acting and direction, then you’re going to have a hit on your hands.
But if all you have is pretty faces and beautiful locations, then you end up with pretty pictures and not much more. Instead of a hit, you have a mediocrity. Or in this case a derivative mediocrity.
Having visited Venice once upon a time I knew what the place was all about. As for Paris, I’ve been there multiple times, and am always eager to see it again. As recently as 6 weeks ago I was aboard a train exactly like the one that Depp and Jolie rode into Venice. There’s much to be said about the Trenitalia which is the name of the train system in Italy. So you might say that I was not only in the mood for a clever thriller, but that I was also very much on familiar turf.
I went in expecting something like North By Northwest with Venice subbing for Mt. Rushmore. I hoped for a film that might approach a bit of cinematic heaven like Charade, which was a cheeky romp in Paris with Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, and Walter Matthau, and was directed by Stanley Donen. But the closest we came to ‘cheeky’ were the Jolie cheekbones. This film was sold as a Hitchcockian style European romp, but it wasn’t even close to being in the same league as old Alf. Not even on one his bad days.
Well, let’s get down to specifics. The Tourist is neither clever nor very thrilling. The rooftop chase was not the least bit exciting, thrilling, or realistic. It ended like all the roof top chases we ever saw in an Indiana Jones film with an awning to break the fall and a fruit cart to land in, thereby saving the hero. The boat chases were simplistic and decidedly slow. Even the villain (Shaw played by Steven Berkoff) was kind of benign, despite the fact that we watched him strangle one of his own minions in a Venetian tailor shop.
The script lacked wit, which is not to say they didn’t try for witty. But audience laughter was scarce and that’s being generous.
Jolie did her part. She looked great and even managed to pull off a passable British accent. But the script didn’t give her much to do in terms of acting. She’d enter a room and every pair of male eyes would be on her. That’s looks.
Or she’d show up in a boat to save Depp’s Frank Tupelo. That’s action. But otherwise it was a just a surfacey mystique with no depth.
Depp, as the titular Tourist, had little opportunity to shine. He was supposed to be a simple tourist, who got caught up in something that might have come out of the spy novel he was reading on the train, but, as he played the role, he came off as just simply meek, or meekly simple . I’d blame it on the script, as well as the fact that he wasn’t the first choice for the role. That was Tom Cruise. So Depp, who came to the party late, seemingly kind of mailed it in.
The visuals of Venice including the luxurious Hotel Danieli were superb. We also got a good look at the myriad Venetian waterways. As I said above, the film did have the good looks of the locations. But Paris got shorted. With just one small plaza, one sidewalk cafe, and yes, one chase into a Parisian Metro station which ended with one of the oldest and least original ways with the chasee boarding the train just as the doors closed, and the chasers were left standing on the platform; for sure Paris got short changed.
So the 3rd rate script, which barely required any acting at all by the principals, the lack of chemistry, lack of passion, and the flat direction won’t have you leaving the theater all a buzz about the enjoyable two hours you just spent because you didn’t . Instead you will be thinking about how much you’d like to visit Venice and how disappointing this film was.