Out of Snuff

Movie title: The International (2009)
Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rated: R
Summation: Interpol agent Louis Salinger takes on a corrupt bank because of his partner’s murder.
Spoilers ahead: No


Like the lottery, The International has a lot going for it. It stars Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, and Amy Kwolek. Great action, a well-directed and superbly choreographed screenplay, and more than fine character development go far in producing what should have been a flabbergasting thriller. Instead, we got something else.

Clive Owen is Louis Salinger, a borderline-obsessed Interpol agent who spent the last several years of his sleepless life trying to bring down a powerful and corrupt banking firm called The International Bank of Business and Credit, but with no success. An attractive New York District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts) stands ready to bring down the corrupt credit union, and so she agrees to help Salinger (why she tags along with him almost every step of the film instead of sitting behind a desk or appearing in courts to prosecute offenders like normal district attorneys we are never told.) When Thomas Schumer (Ian Burfield), a fellow agent and friend of Salinger’s ends up dead, born is an opportunity to again go after Louis’ Goliath of a bank. Now, if only they can find witnesses that don’t inexplicably disappear or end up dead!

The International centers on Salinger’s attempt to build a solid case against a monstrously well-fortified organization, and there’s so much more along the way. The movie holds interest with provocative case-development and made-interesting detective work for the audience that focuses on following a series of clues and finding an assassin. And there are bullets—bullets flying in hefty quantities. Unfortunately, the wining-and-dining charm of Clive Owen, though purposely toned down for his role as a scraggly and unhealthy Interpol agent, is not able to get the film out of the way of the bullet of conspiracy theorizing gone too far.

The movie opens with a bang and ends with a sickly realization. It goes something like this: “Did I really spend two hours of my life to get to an ending like that?” The at first alluring appeal of a corrupt organization that loses its way vanishes when bad guys are showing up, tapping phones, and sniping off key targets that they couldn’t possibly know about. That forces another realization: “Yeah, we get it! The bad guys keep tabs on everybody! Got it! Now what else do you have for us?” This film is a reaffirmation of what every schizophrenic and every 911 Truther has been told but needs to accept—conspiracy theories are crap when they go too far!

The deteriorating ability to build a case against the organization is not something the audience can forget. The writers made it their lot in life not to let us forget it. The frustrating search for witnesses and the difficulties in flipping them to spill their guts and testify grows weary when it becomes clear that the writers are just “out of snuff.”

Now “out of snuff” is an old preaching phrase that is used by preacher trainers to refer to a beginning preacher who starts into his sermon well and then gets lost on where to go next. He does alright for a while, and then he stumbles through the speech until it becomes teeth-clenching-ly obvious to everyone listening that he has nothing else to say. He might as well extend the invitation and sit down. I’ve seen it a hundred times. It’s like pulling teeth just to watch!

That’s what happens in The International. At the 2/3s marker, it has nothing else to say. It’s out of snuff. There is no respectable resolution to anything, leaving the audience with a profound feeling of dissatisfaction. Shame. I wanted to like this one. Really, I did.



Director: Tom Tykwer
Starring: Clive Owen “Louis Salinger,” Amy Kwolek "Samantha Salinger," Naomi Watts “Eleanor Whitman,” Armin Mueller-Stahl “Wilhelm Wexler,” Ulrich Thomsen “Jonas Skarssen,” Brian F. O'Byrne “The Consultant”
Genre: Thriller / Drama / Crime