This formulaic suspense/thriller with its toxic mix of obsession, anger and fear covers no new ground. What could happen that you haven’t seen before? Not much. Not anything.
Scott Russell (Michael Ealy, “Sleeper Cell” and “Barbershop”) is an ultra-successful marketing executive. How rich is he? He can afford to buy his wife Annie (Meagan Good, “Think Like a Man”) a $3.2M country home in pricey Napa Valley, a stone’s throw from San Francisco. The place, dubbed Foxglove after a poisonous flower, has countless bedrooms, is surrounded by trees and if you’re going to start a family, this is the ideal home.
The couple bargains the current owner, widower Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid, “Far from Heaven” and those pesky Esurance commercials), down a bit on the price. He seems happy to sell it, to them. Seemingly. Oddly, from the git-go, there is strange tension between Scott and Charlie. Male posturing. Pissing in the sand over invisible territory. Something.
The Russells settle in. They’re ready to be country folk. There’s just one nagging problem. Charlie keeps visiting them unannounced. And no amount of polite hints, or straightforward talk can convince him to stop. Scott admonishes him: “Call or text. You just don’t show up.” Uh-oh!
Several movies come to mind: Beyoncé in “Obsessed” (her husband’s temp secretary comes after them); Sanaa Latham in “The Perfect Guy” (actor Michael Ealy is demonic); Taraji P. Henson in “No Good Deed” (a convict terrorizes a woman and her kids). All are decent, watchable and mildly engaging for fans of the cast or the genre. But unremarkable.
Director Deon Taylor is known for 2018’s “Traffik,” which featured a couple (Paula Patton, Omar Epps) away for a weekend in a plush mountain home who are accosted by bikers. They’re under siege. If that premise sounds familiar it’s because it’s a favorite for suspense/thriller writers and filmmakers who prefer the obvious and don’t think out of the box.
Screenwriter David Loughery has a filmography that lacks depth: “Obsessed” and “Lakeview Terrace” come to mind. He has also won a Worst Screenplay Razzie Award for “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.” The Razzie might be a tad harsh, but it does indicate that he does not aim very high. If his surface-deep script had added some suspicious characters or dead-end plot twists, it might have thrown viewers off the scent and down some wrong paths. It doesn’t. Predictability cuts the suspense in half. That means the thriller aspects have to pick up the slack.
Yes, “The Intruder” sticks to a recipe, but still, the stalking is creepy. The wife’s willingness to coddle a guy who has obvious emotional problems is unlikely, but intriguing. As the previous owner from hell acts out his worst intentions, you do feel sorry for the couple and want them to prevail. Fights, stabbings, falls and chases ensue. It all leads up to the do-or-die climax.
There is something so wholesome about Meagan Good, that she reminds you of all the best teachers you’ve ever had. You wouldn’t want to see harm come her way. Michael Ealy is a little less accessible and somewhat off-putting. He does little to nothing to warm up the Scott character and make you like him. And, if you close your eyes, his voice sounds like that of Terrence Howard, who might have been a better casting choice.
Dennis Quaid chews up the scenery as the pest from hell. He has such an affable face, it’s hard to imagine him as a villain, but you must. The only other actor to get any screen time worth mentioning is Joseph Sikora (TV’s “Power”), who plays Mike, Scott’s pal and work colleague. A cynical person would assume the nice white friend helps counter-balance the evil white antagonist.
Music video/short film cinematographer Daniel Pearl (Ed Sheeran: “Thinking Out Loud”) gives the footage a nice glossy look with rich colors, perfect lighting and the right angles. Costume designer Seth Chernoff dresses the couple in hip, upwardly mobile fashion. The house (production design Andrew Neskoromny, set design Ingrid Burgstaller) is perfect, as if renovated by HGTV’s Property Brothers. Can’t fault the pacing either (editor Melissa Kent). The musical score (Geoff Zanelli) blares too loudly at times, to the point of distraction. However, the film’s steamy playlist includes the bed-burner song by Tank called “When We,” which includes the repetitive line “When we f—.”
Is this contrived suspense/thriller worth $15 bucks on a Saturday night at the movies? Good question. Young adult couples might think so, others might not. Would you watch it on Netflix if you’d exhausted all other possibilities? That’s a distinct possibility.