Gleefully Loopy Intruder a Frustrating Throwback Thriller
Scott Russell (Michael Ealy) has just closed a major deal that will bring millions in income to the California marketing and public relations firm he works at. With this success, he happily informs his giddy freelance journalist wife Annie (Meagan Good) now is the perfect time to consider buying that secluded Napa Valley home she’s been eying for quite some time. Nicknamed “Foxglove,” the property is owned by talkative widower Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid), and although he loves his house his eldest daughter is eager for him to move with her to Florida making him an eager seller.
Quickly Scott and Annie work on making Foxglove their own, changing out the furniture, painting the walls and installing a massive flat screen television set. It’s bliss, save for the fact that Charlie doesn’t seem eager to get on a plane and head to Florida anytime soon. Instead, he randomly shows up to mow the lawn and put new topsoil into the flowerbeds. But while Scott thinks something fishy is going on, Annie just looks at the former owner as a lonely older gentleman who is finding it difficult to let go of the past. As for Charlie, his motivations aren’t as charmingly benign as they appear, a tragic secret lurking in his past that potentially spells marital doom for the loving couple who have taken up residence inside the only home he’s ever known.
Written by Lakeview Terrace and Passenger 57 screenwriter David Loughery and directed by Traffik filmmaker Deon Taylor, The Intruder is a psychological thriller with Hitchcockian aspirations that instead deserves to sit beside pulpy 1990s genre favorites like The Hand the Rocks the Cradle, Sleeping with the Enemy and Pacific Heights more than it should be spoken about in the same breath as classics like Rear Window or Shadow of a Doubt. It is a loopy, over-the-top shocker that is unafraid to wallow in its daffily cartoonish aspects, gifting Quaid the opportunity to gleefully go for broke as he delivers an eccentrically wild performance of lustful villainy that’s a total hoot.
Not that the film forgets about its two protagonists. Ealy and Good make a magnetic couple, the actors playing off one another nicely. While Loughery’s scenario isn’t exactly subtle in regards to the complications that will put a crimp in their marriage, ones that also allow Charlie a foothold into their lives, the pair’s performances are just strong enough they make all of this silliness moderately enjoyable. Ealy, in particular, is quite good, and there were even a few moments where the depth of his emotive capabilities, especially during a scene where he heartbreakingly explains his refusal to allow guns anywhere near his home, are nothing less than splendid.
Unfortunately, those moments where the film treats itself and its characters with complete sincerity are exactly what leads it to go off the rails during its climactic stretch. While it’s apparent that Loughery and Taylor are eagerly intent to deliver a climax their audience will go nuts over, the duo inadvertently undercuts all of the moral and humanistic components that helped make Scott and Annie worth rooting for. In the span of only a few short seconds their entire character arcs are completely undone, sending me out of the theatre feeling I’d just drank a fizzy new soda that I thoroughly enjoyed drinking only to have it leave a rancidly bitter aftertaste once the can was empty. It’s a calamitous turn of events that made me feel uncomfortable, and as much as I want to extoll the goofy virtues of this slick little thriller my unhappiness over its final minutes are making that difficult.
But Quaid is a ton of fun to watch, his controlled obnoxiousness utilized marvelously throughout almost all of the film’s exuberantly paced 102 minutes. Charlie’s mentally unbalanced joviality is only a mask hiding his unbridled egotistically deranged psychosis. He’s a madman who sees himself as the pinnacle of manliness, taking the concept of toxic masculinity to a level so extreme this is a guy who can offer up a friendly smile and presents a gently concerned demeanor only to be secretly waiting to bury a knife right in the center of a person’s back as soon as the opportunity to do so arises. Quaid showcases all of this with an awe-shucks bravado that’s reminiscent of his work in ‘80s classics like InnerSpace and The Big Easy, while at the same time doing so with a conniving, cutthroat intensity that’s comically unnerving.
I honestly wish The Intruder stuck the landing because, as mindless and as absurd as this thriller might be, it’s fiendishly well directed, craftily scripted and rarely takes itself so seriously that its more insidiously inane qualities become almost endearing. But there are moments of honest dramatic insight and introspection, and while that normally would be nice to see and worthy of additional kudos, the fact they are so heinously undercut by the final scenes inadvertently make them feel like a slap in the face. It’s as if Loughery and Taylor want to be commended for putting a voice to some fairly tough subject matter yet don’t particularly care that they hypocritically reverse course right at the end of the film. There’s no cathartic release after the final confrontation between Charlie and the Russells has reached its conclusion, and all I kept thinking about as I walked home was just how angry those last few seconds ended up making me.
– Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle
Film Rating: 2 (out of 4)