Friday, March 18, 2011

The Resident (2010)

At a glance:
Hilary Swank’s class, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s menace, and Brooklyn Bridge locations slightly lift a typical stalker thriller

Our review (with spoilers):
Juliet (Hilary Swank) breaks up with her cheating boyfriend and moves into an old but luxurious apartment, offered at a discount price by the seemingly sincere and innocent Max (Jeffrey Deam Morgan, a Javier Bardem lookalike). Max’s creepy uncle August (Christopher Lee) lives down the hall. August looks foreboding and Max seems harmless, but you’ve got to watch the quiet ones. Soon, it becomes evident that Max is obsessed with Juliet and moves freely in and out of her apartment, sometimes when she is away, and sometimes while she sleeps.

The Resident is beautifully photographed and the underlit to good effect, except for some of the latter stalking scenes in the walls of the old building, where it’s a bit too dark to see anything at times. Shadows cast by the night sky weave sinuous tentacle of darkness into the apartment, helping the early scenes in the film to build tension. Swank is solid, and the rest of the cast is more than competent. Morgan in particular goes from innocent to evil just by changing his expression. Lee is great as always, but his role is little more than a cameo.

I don’t watch a lot of this genre of film, so I always feel at a loss to make any kind of a comparison, nor can I get a feel for what fans of the genre will think. Personally, I liked the early use of the Brooklyn Bridge locations, but I thought the buildup was much better than the payoff, but that’s because the payoff was very typical of this type of film. I felt like it was competently executed (killer stalks woman through dark area) but had little new to offer. The resolution, in particular, has been done many times before, in slightly different variations (Juliet is trapped and feverishly smashes a window, presumably to escape, before the killer catches her. The killer then enters the room and longingly gazes out the window in what is known as the ‘wait to be crept up on’ pose). It must be difficult to create something original when so many of these types of films have already been made. Also, there was a lost opportunity to focus on the killer’s dislike of technology. He mentions that he’s not part of the Twitter crowd, and this becomes evident when he spends hours in Juliet’s apartment and completely ignores the bright message on her computer stating that there are new (security) videos to view. I also must mention a weird use of flashback early on in the film: after 20 minutes, the director rewinds the entire film in fast motion to show us some hidden plot points. It seems too soon for a refresher course, although I’m sure any memory-challenged goldfish in the audience will appreciate it.

I would love to see Swank get a role that flexes her acting muscles next time, rather than just her muscle muscles.

Rating:  2.5 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Any ambiguity and suspense is frequently stripped by writer/director Antti Jokinen's signposting of every upcoming twist and turn. This is epitomised by a supposedly revelatory and overlong flashback sequence that occurs just half an hour into the movie and contains big snippets of scenes we've already witnessed!"
- Ben Rawson-Jones (Digital Spy)

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