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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Charlie's Phantoms

Charlie Countryman on IMDb

Plot Overview


tombstoneThe late Kate Countryman (Melissa Leo) of the Windy City has one regret as a mother, that her bouncing around between husband & lover deprived her son Charlie (Shia LaBeouf) of a stable male influence, so he turned out a wuss. She appears to him in a vision and makes him promise to go to Bucharest where, we suppose, men are men and some of it might rub off. In Randall M. Miller's book on how Holly­wood views ethnic groups, he writes that Slavs are not like Jews interacting with the public in their shops, but they are often employed in-house as servants, thus out of the public's view resulting in unfamiliarity. In the public's ignorance they're perceived as coarse and over­sexed. He writes:

Slavs are … Russians, Poles, or what not—

Slavs were not as conspicuous as other immigrant groups because their work and settlement patterns were significantly different.—

Slavic women, too, had low visibility. Domestic service (cleaning) and keeping lodgers and boarders were their most popular forms of work.

The most popular Slavik image was that of the “peasant” … and, like animals, were super-fecund, with “a rather gross attitude towards sexual morality” (136–139.)

care bearFantasy Island ExpressOn the plane to the promised land, Charlie engages his seat­mate Victor Ibanescu (Ion Caramitru) who's returning from his bucket list Cubs game at Wrigley Field with a present for his daughter Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood.) His regret is having unwittingly intro­duced her to her domineering husband Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen.) He'd later engineered their separation, but after he expires from an aneurism on the plane, all bets are off. Favoring the under­dogs—like the Cubs—his ghost makes Charlie promise to deliver the gift with a message to his beautiful daughter.

music practicehorn playingCharlie finds her playing Cello at the Bucharest Opera House where Nigel also shows up and gets introduced as her ex to Charlie a supposed homo, Yank tuba player come to observe the orchestra.

Gabi Ibanescu: “Nigel was my husband.”

Nigel: “I beg your pardon, Gabi, did you say was? Honestly, f__king was? No, Charlie, not f__king was. F__king is. F__king meaning I currently f__king am till death do us f__king part.”

In Romania marriage is contractual, but alternate forms of the contract have been developed over the years. Under the New Civil Code, it's a contract of unspecified duration and unknown content to be developed as the form of the marriage progressively manifests itself. In other words it's a gambling contract or a contract of wager, such as was discussed between a Gringo and a Jap in a Chris Knopf novel:

“Do we have a plan?” she asked.

“No, but we have a few precautions, and the start of a plan.”

“What's the end look like?”

“A good Buddhist would allow the future to be what­ever the future wants it to be.”

“In other words, you don't know.”

“I don't.” (255)

pencilGabi directs Charlie to the International Youth Hostel where he meets his stoned, Brit room­mates Karl (Rupert Grint) and Luc (James Buckley) who all get high together, and the camera allows us to share their vision of women undressed where they stand. By and by, Luc blunders OD-ing on Romanian Viagra. They go to a titty bar for relief from too much lead in his pencil. There's an incident and they fall into dutch with the criminal owners who incidentally are looking for a missing Nigel whose picture with Gabi is on the office wall. Charlie like a rube stares at it. The resolution is outside the scope of peaceful Buddhist practice.


The course of any romance is unpredictable at best, but here we have a cross-cultural one in which both parties are in shock and one is being intimidated and the other hassled. It's as wise King Solomon put it, (Prov. 30:18-19) “There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.” Those motions are hard to track, especially that last one.

jet pilotTake “the way of an eagle in the air.” The airborne one here is what to do with a corpse on a fully booked plane, how to manage a touched passenger on the ground, and whether one can survive Victor's ride in an ambulanta piloted by drivers tripping on whacky baccy (“hash”) whose vehicle leaves the ground.

Then there's, “the way of a serpent upon a rock.” Here it's a mad chase over a serpentine route across roofs and down streets.

And at the end it's, “the way of a ship in the midst of the sea.” Here we have our hero dangling by a rope over a spill­way of a dam, being lined up to be shot.

All this visually prepares us to be taken off guard at the machinations attending a surprise romance.

Production Values

” (2013) was directed by Fredrik Bond. It was written by Matt Drake. It stars Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelsen, and Rupert Grint. LaBeouf gives a fantastic lead. Wood delivered a top performance. None of the characters, how­ever, comes across as likeable excepting when Ion Caramitru sings, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

MPAA rated it R for some brutal violence, language throughout, sexuality/nudity, and drug use. There is a multiple shooting in a restaurant and a death by cop. It had a great musical sound­track, pretty classy with a real orchestra center stage in places. To say the plot is twisted would be an understatement. Runtime is 1¾ hours.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

Mark Twain said there's nothing certain in life but death and taxes. Here death isn't all that sure if the departed can return for a tête à tête. And Charlie playing it cool might be able to worm his way out of the “serious” fine at the club. The movie's under­mining of assumptions shakes us up by design, makes the audience uneasy; it even got to me who am used to all kinds of celluloid nonsense. It would be a good one to watch before traveling abroad, to prepare one­self for culture shock. If you're a glutton for punishment, this one is made for you.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well done special effects. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Overall movie rating: Three stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Knopf, Chris. Cries of the Lost. Copyright © 2013 by Chris Knopf. Sag Harbor: The Permanent Press, 2013. Print.

Miller, Randall M. The Kaleidoscopic Lens: how Hollywood views ethnic groups. Englewood, NJ: Ozer. © 1980. Print.