This is going to be a Very Spoilery review. Please please please do not read if you want to see this movie, because I'm going to ruin the ending. Because I'm too angry with this movie not to rant about it, and I can't rant about what I didn't like without spoiling the ending.
You have been warned!
There's quite a few things wrong wth this movie, but there's also quite a few things right. One of the things wrong is the casting. Now, I really like Angelina Jolie. She's one of my favorite current actresses. I think she's cool, beautiful, and fun to watch. But she didn't work for me in this film. I'm not sure what it is, exactly. She's so busy being aloof and mysterious that I failed to connect with her, or see why Frank, Johnny Depp's character, would fall for her, other than she's beautiful. Her character either isn't strong enough, or isn't vulnerable enough. But I know she can be a lot more than a pretty face, so her character's distinct lack of personality in this movie was very disappointing.
But Paul Bettany and Timothy Dalton are in it, and they both have personality to spare so they somewhat make up for her. And Johnny Depp, of course, is always good. The Venice locale is lovely, though... flat. As in, this movie could have been set in any city in the world. They just happened to choose Venice, but it fails to become part of the movie.
And then there's the ending.
Cardinal rule of writing... don't waste your reader's time. Same thing applies to movies. Do not waste your audience's time. How do you waste their time? By developing characters they like, giving those characters an arc, letting those characters step beyond their ordinary lives to do something extraordinary... then throwing all that development out the window. It's cheating. It's like the "it's only a dream!" ending. It makes me mad.
And now for the big spoilers. You see, Johnny Depp's playing a character named Frank. A math teacher from Wisconsin, on vacation in Venice. He gets sucked into a dangerous convoluted plot, to be used as bait against his knowledge, basically, to catch a thief. Cool. Right on board. There's a bunch of British, French, Italian agents trying to catch the thief. There's also a ruthless, brutal gangster who will do anything to get his money back from that thief. Cool. still onboard. So, in our finale, Angelina Jolie is caught by the gangster and threatened if she can't tell him where the hidden money is. And so, our math teacher from Wisconsin goes in to confront the bad guys when the British agents won't help her. He goes in to save her cuz he's fallen in love with her. Dude, this is cool. This is awesome. This is an ordinary guy going beyond his ordinary life for the woman he loves. I am soooooo on board with this.
But no. Surprise! He's not really a math teacher from Wisconsin. He's actually the thief everyone's been looking for the whole movie... hahah, fooled ya! Isn't that clever?
Movie... I hate you for taking away what could have been an awesome ending. I wouldn't have cared if Frank had gotten killed trying to save her, or if she was killed because he was in over his head and couldn't save her, or they ended up in jail or lived happily every after. As long as the movie fulfilled the promise it set up from the very title of the movie -- an ordinary guy willing to do whatever it takes. But nope, it cheated. It made it all a dream. It ended up wasting my time, made me want to bang my head against the wall, and... well, gave me a ranting blog post.
Wasn't that exciting?
I'm sure some people will love the "surprise" ending. But I am definitely not one of them.