If it were released at any other time, The International would be loudly mocked and/or ignored for what it is: a really stupid thriller with delusions of grandeur. But timing is everything: Even though the crappy The International was more or less shamefully shoved out the door by Sony Pictures, my hunch is it'll get a lot more press than it deserves, largely because its villain is a bank. While the glacial pace of Hollywood's production cycle means that most films currently in release are embarrassingly oblivious to the world's current financial meltdown, the happy chance of The International's release date means that on the surface, at least, it almost appears relevant.
Our eeeevil antagonist here is the fictitious "International Bank of Business and Credit," to be exact—a sinister European institution housed in massive temples of gleaming glass and cold steel. The IBBC, as it's repeatedly referred to in panicked tones, controls trillions of zillions of dollars, but wants more—specifically, it wants to control the flow of arms sales, and the debt resulting therein. "You control the debt... you control everything," exposits one soon-to-be assassinated informant a short time after one of the IBBC's scheming lawyers rewrites a police statement. "Clerical errors such as ziss can happen vrom time to time," the scheming lawyer schemes, and from there on out, the film's a no-holds-barred rollercoaster of excitement in which Interpol Agent Clive Owen grumbles a lot and Manhattan District Attorney Naomi Watts frantically text messages on her BlackBerry in between saying things like, "Who gives a shit about jurisdictional providence?!"
The weird thing about The International is that it feels approximately 14 hours long, yet its sometimes-dumb, sometimes-blurry plot seems to be missing entire scenes. And then there are the action sequences, which seem like they were added after test audiences fell asleep out of boredom: One epic, weirdly violent shootout takes place among the austere curves of the Guggenheim, leaving the museum pockmarked with a ludicrous number of bullet holes. As Owen runs around, guns blazing, the sequence feels like an outtake from the actor's lighthearted action flick Shoot 'Em Up—except while the cartoony Shoot 'Em Up knew exactly how goofy it was, The International has no idea.