‘Tourist’ good for the scenery

Angelina Jolie as "Elise" and Johnny Depp as "Frank" in Columbia Pictures' THE...

Angelina Jolie as "Elise" and Johnny Depp as "Frank" in Columbia Pictures' THE TOURIST.

JIM SLOTEK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:29 PM ET

If, at some point in its development, The Tourist wasn't known as "Untitled Johnny Depp/Angelina Jolie Project," it should have been.

In fact, that would be a better title even now for this pricey, logic-challenged popcorn flick. In the marquee esthetics of Hollywood, to realize these film icons haven't been paired is like discovering Batting Champ A has yet to face that Cy Young-winning Pitcher B.

Jolie! ... Depp! ... What happens when these two forces of nature meet? Mutual annihilation?

In a word, no. Anyone expecting natural chemistry, a la Mr. & Mrs. Smith, between two such different film personalities hasn't paid attention to their work.

A daunting female presence, Jolie tends to steamroll her leading men (koff -- James McAvoy -- koff). But the dry and eccentric Depp practically inhabits a different planet from his co-star. Offscreen, they apparently drank wine and talked about their kids. Onscreen, their interaction is every bit as hot.

As a consequence, both actors' best scenes are en seule, as they say in France (this is, after all, a remake of a 2005 French film called Anthony Zimmer -- aren't all Hollywood thrillers these days remakes of French films?). Jolie's best moments come when she's being surveilled by Interpol, as she vamps for the voyeurs, the camera following her curves like a caress.

And Depp? His flair for physical comedy emerges when he's on the run, specifically when he sprints across Venice rooftops in his pyjamas, one step ahead of a hail of bullets fired by international criminals with characteristic bad aim.

Those are the moments that almost make it worth turning your brain off and enjoying the scenery in this nonsensical thriller. The Tourist is an odd career turn for German director Florian Henckel von Dannersmarck (The Lives of Others). A closet Hollywood-phile, he is channeling Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief with a faulty Ouija board.

As we meet mystery woman Elise (Jolie), she is sitting in a Paris patio, drinking her café espresso and reading a note from her international thief boyfriend telling her to take a train to Venice and look for someone who's his height and build and settle in with him. As per the instructions in the note, she sets fire to it and leaves. Quickly, police swoop in under the command of Acheson (Paul Bettany), carefully collect the ashes, and use high-tech juju to recreate the note.

Enter Frank (Depp) a mumbly and bemused math teacher who's pleasantly surprised by Jolie's attention (who wouldn't be?). What follows is a travelogue full of red herrings, mistaken identity and revenge -- an international mob boss (Steven Berkoff) wants the boyfriend/Frank dead because he stole a billion euros from him. The cops want him for the taxes.

The ending, if you care about it, forces you to rewind everything that happened previously and go, "Huh?"

What can be said is that von Donnersmarck, who shot so claustrophobically in The Lives of Others, does know how to shoot wide to capture beauty and opulence as well as action.

Although seriously, could anyone shoot Venice badly?

(This film is rated PG)


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