At least the cast looks great. Wordy-titled director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck takes Depp and Jolie on a spirited ride through the verandas of Venice in this light remake of Anthony Zimmer, a little-seen 2005 French thriller. But while the original looks like a spicy little number, Donnersmarck has taken this new endeavour into unusually comic territory.
It all starts well enough. Garishly beautiful Brit Elise (Angelina Jolie) sits smoking outside a Parisian café, under the leery surveillance of several interpol agents. She receives instructions from her estranged lover to take a train to Venice and mislead the agents by picking an arbitrary man to sit with. By sundown, Elise has elegantly evaded her legal stalkers, swiped up a mild-mannered tourist along the way (Johnny Depp as Frank Tupelo) and sneaked him to her personal Venisian penthouse.
As a maths teacher Frank is way out of his depth, so when a team of dogged Interpol agents proceeds to chase him around town, mistaking him for Elise’s mysterious fugitive lover Alex, he flops like a fish in the desert. Meanwhile ruthless Russian gangsters stoke up their own vendetta, whipping the whole of Venice into a mad-cap frenzy of narrow misses and confused identities.
Donnersmarck paints Venice with a postcard gloss and an indulgent score, ironically underpinning the misguided romance between Julie and Depp. But the sensory treats can’t quite stave of the patent lack of chemistry between the two as they make clipped, muted exchanges that neither invite or answer questions. Clever dialogue might win a wry smile
(Depp at Julie, dumbstruck: ‘You look ravenous.’
Julie: ‘You mean ravishing?’
Julie: ‘You look ravenous’)
…But that doesn’t compensate for the shallowness of the characters, or the outright silliness of it all. It’s not quite funny enough to be comedic; the action hardly suspenseful enough to be thrilling.
Perhaps Studio Canal were so sold on the pitch (‘Depp and Julie in Venice! Madness ensues!!’) that they splashed out and never bothered to check up on the script. Perhaps they’re happy enough with the result and see no fault with it. There are at least enough twists and turns to keep most viewers entertained for 100 or so minutes. It depends what you’re expecting, really.