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The International

Mad Money

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

It would be easy to mock The International for its self-important approach to material that’s far too silly to be taken as a serious indictment of a banking system dominated by the interests of murder-minded powerbrokers. Yet I must resist that urge (for the most part, at least) because the movie is so cleverly crafted, unfolding at a dizzying pace before arriving at conclusions that defy logic as you watch them in real-time and make even less sense when you think about them afterward. In other words, it’s a solid little thriller, no more but definitely no less.

The movie stars Clive Owen, the born-to-brood star once seen unleashing a storm of bullets on an endless array of bad guys in 2007’s Shoot ’Em Up. While The International is not nearly as banal or brazenly unsophisticated, one could be forgiven a slight sense of déjà vu when Owen, as determined do-gooder Louis Salinger (no relation to J.D.), and Naomi Watts as his partner in crime-fighting Eleanor Whitman (no relation to Walt) go globetrotting in search of account-balancing assassins.

If it all seems a tad far-fetched, the notion of an influential Luxembourg bank involved in far-reaching conspiracies to finance terrorism, purchase weapons of mass destruction and eliminate business rivals at will, the movie is surprisingly based (however loosely) on the exploits of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, based in Pakistan, which was complicit in many or all of these things until its demise in 1991. Director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) doesn’t shed much light on modern-day banking practices, but he keeps the action taut and his visual style distinctive, rarely more so than during a memorably explosive shootout set in a giant soundstage re-creation of New York’s Guggenheim Museum.