THE INTERNATIONAL (Tom Tykwer). 118 minutes. Opens Friday (February 13). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
Director Tom Tykwer first grabbed our attention with the frenzied, feverish Run, Lola, Run. Here, he seems barely interested in keeping us awake.
The International sends a grizzled Interpol agent (Clive Owen) and a spunky New York district attorney (Naomi Watts) on a crusade to bring down a bank that brokers Third World arms deals. The story is smart, but it's also patience-testing at every turn, a bad sign for a thriller.
To build tension, information is meted out in microscopic quantities that left me feeling like Oliver - Please, sir, can I have some more?!
More frustrating is that the pair lack a personal stake in solving the case. Their characters risk their lives because it's the right thing to do - an entirely noble pursuit, justice - but this makes it hard to empathize the fourth or fifth time they get shot at or run over. And there's not even a hint of romantic frisson between them, à la Three Days Of The Condor, which the film clearly wants to emulate.
There's also a surprising lack of action - not a single car chase. A terrifically staged shootout seems to exist solely as a reminder never to take off your bulletproof vest until the shooting stops.