Into every life a little rain must fall. Some fairly pervasive advertising drove me into the cinema to see this one… often a sign that the distributors think it has legs. And from its quirky opening titles (with a COMPLETELY expected shock denouement!) I started to think it did have something. The beginning is in fact VERY similar to the introductory scene of “Get Out” in its randomness, and for one brief moment I wondered if the film was trying to parody that indie classic from last year… with only some studio lawyers getting in the way of them really calling it “Get In”. (“No, no, no… ‘Get’ is copyrighted… you’ll have to use some other word!”).
But no. It turns out that this is a pretty below-average B-movie after all,
The plot is pretty derivative of the “family in dire peril” variety made famous by the “Taken” series. Not being able to persuade Liam Neeson to wear a dress in this “Times Up” era, the Neeson-actioner writer Ryan Engle (“The Commuter“, “Non-Stop“) switches the action to focus on stressed mother Shaun Russell (Gabrielle Union).
Shaun has come to deepest Wisconsin with her two kids, Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and Glover (Seth Carr) to arrange the sale of her deceased father’s luxury home: a house absolutely brimming to the elegant rafters with security features. But unknown to them, there are already intruders in the house searching for something of value, and with Shaun locked outside the secure fortress home she will stop at nothing to break in and bring her children safely home.
The sad thing about this one is that the fairly unknown cast actually do a pretty good job. The chief villain Eddie, played by Billy Burke, channels an effectively ‘evil-quiet-Gary-Oldman” turn to good effect. His accomplices, the more sensitive Sam (Levi Meaden), luckless Peter (Mark Furze) and (particularly) the psychopathic Duncan (Richard Cabral) (can a psychopath really be called Duncan?) are broad caricatures, but never too broad to be totally awful.
Gabrielle Union kicks-ass effectively with her particular set of skills (see below), but particularly good is 22-year old Ajiona Alexus who has a great screen presence and deserves to be in much better films than this.
Where the film stumbles and goes crashing through its carbonite shutters is in the story and the screenplay’s dialogue.
The former is just bat-shit crazy, with so many ridiculous plot-holes and “yeah-but” moments that you lose count. For example, at one point the daughter is looking for her mobile phone WHICH IS IN THE ROOM and which would wrap the plot up in 10 minutes flat…. but then something else happens and they stop looking for it, never to be thought of again!
And what of those ‘particular set of skills’ that Shaun has? Oh, I forgot to say… she has none!! Or at least you assume not, since Shaun seems to have no back-story whatsoever, other than the fact that her daddy is very very rich and being investigated by the D/A. For what? Embezzlement? Tax evasion? Smartie-smuggling? Gun running? Perhaps he was a mafia overlord and Shaun was brought up with martial arts, gun and knife training to spy-school level? Perhaps none of the above, and she was just an obsessive watcher of Engle-scripted flicks? We will never know.
In addition, Shaun gets the proverbial crap kicked out of her on so many occasions, but there is no trip to casualty required. (Yes, I know Neeson and most other action heroes have the same implausible in-vulnerabilities, but it just seems so much less realistic when she is a not-particularly sporty or athletic woman).
And that dialogue… it’s just plain laughable in places. If Eddie doesn’t do his “Mamma hen will come back to save her chicks” speech once, he does it five times….
“Hey, James”… (James McTeigue, director, “V for Vendetta”)… says Burke, “Haven’t I said this line four times already”. “Sure”, says McTeigue, “I’m not sure where exactly I want to put it in the final cut yet, but only one of them will stay in. Don’t worry… I won’t make you look stupid to the cinema-going audience!!”
Every last thriller cliché is mined as the story grinds to an unmemorable and very flat conclusion.
Before wrapping up, I’d point out Another crime being committed in the music department. Australian composer Johnny Klimek’s action thriller score is actually quiet good, full of nice electronic riffs. But he really doesn’t know when to shut up. I remember an interview by John Williams on scoring the score to Hitchcock’s “Family Plot” where he recounted that Hitchcock taught him the value of a sudden absence of music at key moments. This film is too recent to learn the many lessons of “A Quiet Place“: but there are so many moments in this film where silence should have been golden. At one point the (what should be) heart-stopping sound effect of a creaking beam can barely be heard over Klimek’s pounding electronics.
So in summary, although it’s the award of ‘good acting attempt’ badges to sew onto the cast’s scout uniforms, my message to you dear reader re this one is “Get Out” of the cinema and enjoy the nice summer evenings instead!
Fad Rating: Ff.