NEW AT THE MOVIES: 'International' is eye-catching - The Explorer: El Sol

NEW AT THE MOVIES: 'International' is eye-catching

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Posted: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 12:00 am | Updated: 1:23 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

Rated R for some sequences of violence and language. Running time: 118 minutes. Three stars out of four.

“The International” is equal parts globe-trotting thriller and architecture porn, as perfectly crystallized by its mind-blowing central set piece: a seemingly endless shootout at the Guggenheim Museum.

Oh yes, and other events take place during “The International,” but none that will leave you with quite the same breathless impression.

A sexily rumpled Clive Owen stars as Interpol agent Louis Salinger. A mixture of obsessiveness and self-destruction, the former Scotland Yard detective is now investigating some potentially shady dealings at one of the world’s most powerful banks. Illegal arms deals, power brokering, money laundering — you name it, and the bank probably has got its tentacles in it.

When one of Salinger’s undercover associates gets murdered in Berlin while on the case at the film’s suspenseful start, Salinger teams up with Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (a strangely stiff Naomi Watts) to uncover not just that killing but the bank’s myriad crimes. Stops along the way include Milan, Lyon and Istanbul.

Character development is a bit lacking — truly, Watts gets little more to do that make a few phone calls and run around at Owen’s side — but Owen engages in one great battle of wits with the formidable Armin Mueller-Stahl as the bank’s shadowy adviser. Brian F. O’Byrne is intimidating in a quieter, creepier way in just a few scenes as an assassin known only as The Consultant.

With its themes of worldwide Machiavellianism and corporate corruption, “The International” seems to have more on its mind than the average thriller coming out this time of year. It’s also a feast for the eyes — especially if you’re a fan of modern design. Besides the iconic Guggenheim, the IBBC’s Luxembourg headquarters is an impressively icy fortress, and the home of the bank’s evasive, sleekly dressed president (Ulrich Thomsen) is a wood-and-glass box on stilts perched precariously on a hillside.

The visual metaphor melds nicely with the meat of the movie, creating a thriller of unexpected substance to go along with its style.

CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC

Rated PG for some mild language and thematic elements. Running time: 100 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

Though the timing on “Confessions of a Shopaholic” couldn’t have been worse — the idea of reveling in wretched excess when untold thousands are losing their homes, their jobs, their minds — there really is no appropriate moment for a shrill onslaught that perpetuates the worst stereotypes about female materialism.

We must address what an utter waste this is of Fisher’s infinite likability. The effervescent redhead, who made a splash in “Wedding Crashers” but proved she could really act, too, in the little-seen noir “The Lookout,” brings a bright energy to the role of compulsive shopper Rebecca Bloomwood but is too often trapped in hackneyed slapstick and cat fights.

There’s something a little daffy and dangerous lurking beneath her perky cuteness, which this PG-rated, Jerry Bruckheimer-produced explosion of color and noise never puts to best use.

Instead, Rebecca comes off as a watered-down, latter-day Carrie Bradshaw, complete with a job as a journalist and a wardrobe designed by Patricia Field.

The plot — as if it matters, since “Confessions” is mostly about label worship — follows Rebecca’s futile attempts at reducing her credit card debt of more than $16,000, even as she hypocritically writes a magazine column about smart shopping.

At one rare low point, Rebecca is briefly honest about her shopping addiction: It gives her pleasure but afterward, she sinks into sadness; she must shop again to recapture the feeling. Then it’s back to some frothy discussion about a scarf.

Hugh Dancy co-stars as the dashing British editor with whom she falls in love, which no one seems to think is inappropriate. John Goodman, Joan Cusack, John Lithgow, Kristin Scott Thomas and Lynn Redgrave are among the talents squandered in meager supporting roles.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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