Good Neighbors has plenty of problems going against it. While I had plenty of issues with the movie from the casting, performances and some of the screenplay elements, I still was entertained throughout the relatively breezing 99-minute running time.
Genre(s): Suspense/Thriller, Drama
Magnolia | R – 99 min. – $26.98 | September 27, 2011
Directed by: Jacob Tierney
Writer(s): Chrystine Brouillet (novel); Jacob Tierney (written by)
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Scott Speedman, Emily Hampshire
Theatrical Release Date: July 27, 2011 (limited)
Features: Featurette, Deleted Scene, Theatrical Trailer
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35
THE MOVIE – 3.5/5
Please note that this review contains spoilers, though if you’ve seen the trailer, you already know it…
Plot (partially taken from back cover): Neighbors Spencer (SCOTT SPEEDMAN) and Louise (EMILY HAMPSHIRE) have bonded over their fascination with a record string of murders terrorizing their community. When new tenant named Victor (JAY BARUCHEL) moves into the building, things become… intense. First Victor and Spencer start off a bit shaky as Victor is timid and overly chatty while Spencer – who is stuck in a wheelchair after a car accident – is rash, abrasive and sarcastic.
In between the two men, despite having many conversations with Spencer, mostly in the cynical nature, lives a quiet and meek life working as a waitress at a Chinese restaurant having only love for her two cats… yes, she’s a budding crazy cat-lady. And that craziness spirals out of control when her brash/miserable neighbor poisons and kills her cats. She then hatches a plan to exact revenge on the neighbor.
Meanwhile, we still have the serial killer/rapist on the loose but about half way through we learn who it is and the big twist: Yep, it’s the guy in the wheelchair. The guy who, even when nobody is around, would wheel around his apartment, though I suppose one could say he was a method con artist with a taste for killing… and raping the corpse afterward (something that is shown from afar). In any case, things get complicated as these three neighbors cross paths along with a police investigation.
Good Neighbors is actually not that bad of a psychological thriller/drama thanks in part to the screenplay written by Jacob Tierney (who also directed) and based upon the novel “Cherevoisine” by native Canadian Chrystine Brouillet (the film takes place in a Quebec suburb). I point out the screenplay because most everything else is at best average.
First, while I respect each of the main actors, especially Emily Hampshire who bares all during one sequence (thus the “Graphic Nudity” in the MPAA rating) but the performances themselves are uneven. While I think Speedman does an admirable job playing a jackass in a wheelchair and Jay Baruchel shows that he has just as much range as Seth Rogen but whinier, I was perplexed by Hampshire. For instance, there’s a key scene after she kills the neighbor and literally runs across Spencer who himself was just going out for another murder. I don’t know, but her reaction to the revelation was just odd even if she knows that he knows what she was up to that night…
Besides that, if there was one flaw with the screenplay it would be with the third act. For me, something just felt off. It tries to build to this tense-filled finale but the suspense just wasn’t there. I’m all for anti-climatic, which in a way this is, but when all the pieces are put together, it didn’t have the impact I’m sure Tierney was hoping for.
All of that said, I still enjoyed Good Neighbors for its slow pacing and not succumbing too much to clichés. While it could’ve been executed better and had more refined performances (Baruchel for instance is no different than his character in, say, She’s Out of My League, just more creepy at times), I still think it’s a worthwhile venture as the pros slightly outweigh the cons in this case.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.5/5
The Blu-ray doesn’t offer a whole lot, just a single Deleted Scene (2:51) showing the car crash that paralyzed Spencer; HDNet: A Look at Good Neighbors (4:36) which is a short behind-the-scenes EPK featurette; and the Theatrical Trailer (2:28).
There are also previews for Troll Hunter, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, Magic Trip: Ken Keysey’s Search for a Kool Place and HDNet’s show “Drinking Made Easy”.
VIDEO – 3.5/5
Good Neighbors is presented in its original 2.35 anamorphic widescreen transfer and it mostly looks alright but it does contain the usual artifacting throughout and some pixilation as well. That said, the film has a darker tone and during those moments, the black levels look good and not overly crushed that we can still see people or objects in the background.
AUDIO – 3.75/5
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track isn’t great but still more than adequate for the type of film that relies mostly on the suspenseful score while dialogue levels were clear enough to understand.
OVERALL – 3.0/5
Overall, Good Neighbors has plenty of problems going against it. The casting was a bit off when it came to Baruchel only because I saw no different between his performance here with anything else he has done despite the different genres, Hampshire for her part is certainly brave but I wasn’t sure what to make of her the rest of the time and Speedman plays up the douchebag role well enough I suppose. In any case, while I had plenty of issues with the movie from the casting, performances and some of the screenplay elements, I still was entertained throughout the relatively breezing 99-minute running time.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman