Angelina Jolie is our glamorous female lead, inexplicably cast as the English other half to a fugitive embezzler, who’s being eagerly sought by British police for diddling the UK taxman and indeed a heavy-duty gangster (Steven Berkoff – yawn) he’s also left grillions out of pocket. This latterday pimpernel manages to get a message to his beloved in Paris to board a train to Venice and befriend a stranger she can pass off as him to put the pursuers off the scent – enter tousle-haired fake-ciggie-puffing Johnny Depp as the world’s least likely suburban maths teacher. Before long, he’s sharing an exclusive hotel room with this enigmatic seductress, the prelude to being chased across the Venetian rooftops by Russian-accented thugs, and so forth. And in the midst of this, do we detect a frisson of romance….?
Possibly, but that would necessitate emerging from a coma first. The movie’s clearly intended as an insouciant diversion, but von Donnersmarck’s direction paces every single scene with the earnest deliberation of a learner articulated-lorry driver executing an especially tricky three-point turn. Steady…steady…steady. Some felicities of performance or dialogue might enliven the torpor, but there’s a dearth of snappy one-liners, Depp underplays to the degree you feel you must be watching the rehearsal takes, and Jolie pus so much concentration into maintaining her strangled Julie Andrews accent that she’s obviously no energy to invest this mystery lady with any emotional life. There’s barely a flicker of chemistry between the two stars, which renders everything else increasingly academic, especially when the presumed action highlights fall flat (tip: if you want to see a proper boat chase, check out 1971’s Amsterdam-set potboiler ‘Puppet on a Chain’), and Paul Bettany’s struggles to do anything with a thankless ‘Basil Exposition’ part as the man from Scotland Yard are poignant to behold. Top this off with a ‘twist’ ending which is unpredictable in that it’s so ludicrous the film-makers are effectively treating the audience like cretins, and you have a movie that falls down on every level.
Yes, it’s dreck, but we’ve all seen duff movies. What makes this so painfully exasperating is that ‘The Tourist’ is so bloody pleased with itself. It’s as if we're supposed to be pitifully grateful just to see La Jolie in a slinky dress, or peek inside Venice’s swanky Hotel Danieli, or ‘thrill’ to the devastatingly clever plot developments the film-makers have in store for us. Perhaps their ideal viewer is some unfortunate who’s spent a life in seclusion exposed only to endless reruns of ‘Hart to Hart’ and ‘Remington Steele’. If that sounds like you, you might possibly be entertained by this. Just don’t expect too much.