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MOVIE REVIEW

The Tourist

Depp a better match for Jolie: Actress breaks character — a little

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By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / December 10, 2010

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‘The Tourist’’ is a slow and silly action-comedy romantic-thriller, in which Angelina Jolie seduces then tries to ditch a disheveled Johnny Depp in Venice. She’s being hunted by different factions of men in black leather and gray wool. Is there another kind of Angelina Jolie movie? This is the sort in which she has something or is someone of great interest to a lot of people. Why does this woman constantly require question marks and interrogation sequences?

If we accept that Jolie is a movie star — and she is — then we should understand that an elusive element comes with the job. Having her play women of such bureaucratic mystery is a diminishment of her stardom, not to a mention a redundancy, like Arnold Schwarzenegger making movie after movie about the gym. Lady, we get it! You’re a tough nut to crack. What else have you got?

“The Tourist’’ at least gives Jolie a partner who can make her seem occasionally human. Depp is the first man she’s worked with who doesn’t have to resort to gunplay or domestic warfare in order to keep her attention. She seems unusually charmed by him. Jolie finds Depp on a train from France to Italy. He’s a Wisconsin math teacher (who looks like a Michigan meth dealer) and he’s appropriately captivated. She’s using him as a decoy for her actual paramour, an international thief, who’s nabbed hundreds of millions in British pounds. They have dinner, they share a hotel room, though never a bed (Jolie is to be looked at, not touched), and a halfhearted ballroom dance.

They also share some decent dialogue, the sharpness of which harkens back to romantic capers like “The Lady Eve’’ and “Charade.’’ But the German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck can’t keep that up for longer than a few minutes before falling back on limp foot-chases and the most exasperating score. I don’t know who performed it but my guess is the Techno-Thriller Euro Disco Computer Blip Symphony.

Donnersmarck won the foreign-language Oscar in 2007 for “The Lives of Others,’’ his drama about life under the German Stasi. He won lots of other awards, and presumably could have made any film he wanted. One hopes this is a clearing of the throat and not the start of a slump. He wrote “The Tourist’’ and shares credit with Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote “The Usual Suspects,’’ and Julian Fellows, who wrote Robert Altman’s murder-mystery “Gosford Park.’’ You can imagine what each man contributed to the finished product — the pitiful plot twist, for example, is very Keyser Soze — but at no point do they appear to be working on the same page. Tony Gilroy’s “Duplicity,’’ with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, managed to pull off a similar version of this with great confidence and a lighter touch.

The good news is that Jolie and Depp accessorize nicely together. He rarely gets to spar with women in his weight class, and his slovenly approach to stardom might be the antidote for Jolie’s solemnity. Once or twice he manages to win a confused or amused look. That’s breaking character for her. Maybe a few more movies together and he’ll shatter it.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/wesley_morris.

THE TOURIST Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Written by: Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie, and Julian Fellows

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, and Timothy Dalton

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 100 minutes

Rated: PG-13 (violence and brief strong language)

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