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Beyond Bad 

Watch out, people. Here comes a big "important" movie, with a message telling us about how terribly people have been treated in Ethiopia, Cambodia and Chechnya. And in fact, most of what the film is zeroing in on is probably true: governments in it for themselves, freedom fighters who would rather kill than work for freedom and so on.

The biggest problem here is that the filmmakers have forgotten that they have to make it entertaining, or at least interesting. When they're dealing with the subject of human rights, moreover, they had better make it plausible. And, once and for all, someone in the Hollywood establishment should get it into his head that Angelina Jolie IS NOT A GOOD ACTRESS.

Here she plays Sarah, an American who has moved to London to set up house with her well-to-do British husband, Henry (Linus Roache). While attending a fancy dinner for something called Aid Relief International, she's front and center when Dr. Nick Callahan (Clive Owen) crashes the affair, dragging along a starving Ethiopian boy with him as Exhibit A -- and shouting to the uncaring crowd that he's lost his funding in Africa to help others like the boy, and that everyone in the room is a fool for wasting their money on expensive dinners when he needs it to do his work.

Well, wouldn't you know it? Sarah, who hangs out in the best of circles, suddenly finds meaning in her life. She leaves hubby at home and heads to Africa to help save the world.

She uses her savings account to buy three truckloads of food, then accompanies them across the desert -- dressed to the nines in blinding white clothing and never breaking a sweat -- to find not only packs of starving people, but also men with guns trying to take the food away. Thank goodness our heroic doctor shows up to bargain them off.

If only Sarah would go with them. But no, she makes her way to Nick's refugee camp and proceeds to annoy everyone there by telling them how to do their job of saving people. She and the doc have the first of many verbal battles.

Then, inexplicably, they just start chatting happily.

But the really annoying thing is that Jolie spends too much time either pouting or staring in disbelief at what's around her. There's not much dimension to her character, unless you call changing from staring to glaring an example of dimension. And, well, yeah, once in a while she cries. Happily for the refugees, for Nick, and for Ethiopia, she goes home.

Five years later, she's working for the U.N., and seems to be happy with her husband and her young boy. But it's soon revealed that hubby is out of work, and the two of them aren't exactly getting along. And, oops, he's cheating on her. What's a pouty gal to do except take off for Cambodia when she finds out that's where Nick is now saving everyone? Ah, but things have changed a little. There's a good chance that he's now tied in with the CIA even as he goes about curing unfortunates.

Inexplicably, Sarah and Nick are now chums.

But things go wrong. His doctoring and his spy ties don't exactly go together, and there's a really weird scene that shifts her not only into black clothing instead of white, but also into full Lara Croft mode. For reasons that simply can't be explained here, she kicks the tar out of Nick while members of the Khmer Rouge get a big chuckle out of it.

Inexplicably, in a short while, Sarah and Nick are kissing... and more.

Ahhh, love seems to be in the air. But Nick can't let that happen, because if he does... No, sorry, that can't be explained either.

Six years later, she's been promoted in the U.N. and she's back home with hubby, son and a young daughter. And everything in her life is just lovely.

Until she finds out that Nick is now in Chechnya doing the doctor thing. So she just up and leaves, saying nothing to her kids, and only telling hubby that she'll be back on Friday. But there's no doubt she's not thinking about saving any people this time. This time she needs a doctor for herself, if you know what I mean.

But when she gets to this horrid place, she learns that Nick has been kidnapped, that he's not just a doctor anymore (don't forget that CIA connection), and decides that she won't leave the place without him.

Well, she sure does turn out to be a woman of her word. But while everything in this film is supposed to be moving and (gulp) romantic, it ends up being nothing but absurd. There just doesn't seem to be any point to it all, and the ending will anger or frustrate many viewers. Bad acting is one thing (although Clive Owen is pretty good). But bad filmmaking and a head-scratcher of a storyline make it a lot worse.

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