It is an ugly world, full of money laundering, arms dealing and regime destabilization, and Louis Salinger as essayed by Clive Owen, has seen most of it and looks the worse for wear. Agent Salinger's obsession with the nefarious bank in the title has cost him his family, his partners and his reputation. Drummed out of Scotland Yard for trumped up malfeasance after getting too close to the inner workings of the bank, Salinger is on a mission of redemption and reclamation.
Like many movie monsters, The International is a little slow-footed and ponderous at first but, like many stylish and thoughtful thrillers from the seventies - Steve McQueen's Bullit and Gene Hackman's The French Connection, to name two, it is saved by a long kick-ass action sequence that takes place in, of all places, the Guggenheim Museum.
This brutal, bloody orgy of ratcheting mayhem, full of the rising crescendos supplied by the museum's supple, spiraling curves, is - like the movie as a whole - breathtakingly gorgeous and awful. You believe this architectural marvel is being riddled with bullet holes and smashed to smithereens. Moreover, you believe Agent Salinger is actually in danger of being killed. The movie is that real and nasty.
All's well that ends well - well, except The International is a little too "true" for its own good. As the great Armin Mueller-Stahl, in a variation of the pragmatic monsters he has played in countless movies, intones: "Fiction is better than Truth because it has better endings."