The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
Not since the days of silent movies have bankers as a group been cast so ruthlessly as villains. They used to wear waxed mustaches and throw widows and orphans out into the storm. Now the mustaches are gone. "Banker" has been incorporated into the all-embracing term "Wall Street." The bankers in "The International" broker arms deals, sell missiles under the counter and assassinate anyone who gets too snoopy. First they throw you out into the storm, then they blow you up.
Whether this is a fair portrait is not the purpose of a film review to determine. It is accurate of the bankers on view here, and given the face of Armin Mueller-Stahl, once familiar as a good guy, now enjoying a new career as a ruthless villain. His bank, based in Luxembourg as so many schemes are, has been assassinating nosey-parkers for getting too close to their operations, which involve investing in African rebels, nuclear weaponry and arming both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Does it seem to you that a bank with headquarters in Luxembourg is asking for it, just as a nice girl shouldn't rent a room in a whorehouse? In the opening scenes we meet the Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen), keeping watch in Berlin as his partner meets with an insider of the bank. The partner is killed by mysterious means, and that, as they say, makes it personal. Salinger is joined by Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts), a district attorney from Manhattan, for cloudy law enforcement reasons but excellent dramatic ones: It's great to have a plucky blond in the plot.
The movie has a scene in it Hitchcock might have envied, a gun battle ranging up and down the ramps of the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Why there? Because the visuals are terrific. After Salinger and Whitman follow their quarry there, how do dozens of the bank's killers turn up? Because they're needed. Why do assassination squads in the movies always dress in matching uniforms? Makes them easier to identify. You don't ask questions like that. You simply enjoy the magnificent absurdity of the scene. (It was filmed, by the way, on an enormous interior set in Germany.)