As thrilling as a slow-speed boat ride and as death-defying as a jump from a first-floor balcony, The Tourist needs you to find Angelina Jolie the most sex-tastic collection of pronounced collar bone and countable vertebrae in order to hold your attention. For those who don’t think exposed wrist sinew and “size: skeleton” dresses are the height of attraction, here’s hoping you like a bored-looking Johnny Depp wearing patchy, pubic facial hair. No? Then move along, people, there’s nothing to see here.
Screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellowes, along with writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, confuse cleverness for smug simplicity from the first grating seconds of The Tourist . Elise Clifton-Ward (Jolie) is in Paris waiting for a letter from estranged lover and international fugitive Alexander Pierce, who is on the lam for stealing $2 billion from a British gangster (Steven Berkoff), who surrounds himself with Russian cronies because the writers thought that would be funny. Despite living in an age where nearly every object in the world takes pictures, nobody but Elise knows what Alexander looks like; thus, Elise is given a letter that tells her to board a train bound for Italy and to convince the agents following her that some random stranger is Alexander.
The random stranger is Frank Tupelo (Depp), a raging idiot. Socially unskilled and mostly repulsive, Frank finds himself chased by mobsters and the determined inspector John Acheson, who is played by Paul Bettany. Bettany has the most authentic performance in the film, in that he seems really pissed to be in it. What follows is a series of chase sequences boring enough to swap for sheep counting, culminating in one of the most dishonest, unearned “twist” endings in recent memory.
With Depp phoning it in and Jolie giving another consistently wooden, wretchedly haughty performance, the short running time becomes a test of endurance. Considering that von Donnersmarck, McQuarrie and Fellowes are each Oscar winners for different films, this is proof that combining good things doesn’t necessarily produce another good thing; yeah, The Tourist is like bratwurst cheesecake.
The Tourist should have been a throwback, a free-spirited romp invoking the heyday of Carey Grant or Audrey Hepburn. But when your Grant stand-in would rather be sleeping one off and your Hepburn substitute is a glorified lip gloss model, you’re left thinking “Well, at least Venice is pretty.” The Tourist isn’t the year’s worst film, but it may be the best Ambien substitute.