Much has been made of the prescience of The International's release in the middle of a global financial panic. Amid fortnightly reports of banks spending taxpayer bucks on year-end bonuses and corporate casino junkets, the people who handle our money have never seemed so untrustworthy — so what better time for a movie about an arms-trafficking, money-laundering, war-profiteering bank that kills anyone who gets in its way? As it turns out, to equate the shady business in the film with that which has toppled our real-life economy is to give The International far too much credit (pun intended).
Clive Owen, working below his potential, stars as Louis Salinger, an Interpol agent long obsessed with bringing down the bottom-dealing International Bank of Business and Credit. With the help of a Manhattan Assistant District Attorney (Naomi Watts in a paper-thin role), he follows the bank’s operatives from Berlin to Luxembourg to Milan to Istanbul, growing increasingly determined to deliver justice. But since the IBBC’s network of assassins and corrupt officials remains elusive, that justice comes mostly in the form of stale platitudes: “Sometimes a man can meet his destiny on the road he took to avoid it,” asserts Owen to a captured henchman, trying for all the world to sound like he just came up with it.
The International suffers from the waste of a good concept on a generic story. There’s intriguing territory to be mined from the idea of a bank that creates debt in order to control it, but the filmmakers don’t seem interested in any meaningful exploration of that idea. The IBBC is little more than your standard collection of steely-eyed white guys plotting world domination; they could be any evil organization, and The International could be any dopey action thriller.