Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington
Chris Mattson: Y’know what Abel? F*** you.
Abel Turner: Is that a “We Are the World” f*** you?
Chris Mattson: No. It’s a special one. Just for you.
Abel Turner (Jackson) is a policeman and a single father of two, still dealing with the death of his wife – and some deeper issues related to it. His new neighbors are Chris (Wilson) and Lisa(Washington), a mixed race couple who immediately offend Abel with their somewhat public displays of affection and Chris’ habit of flicking cigarette butts onto Abel’s property. Abel begins harassing the couple, and they can’t really do much about it due to his affiliation with the police. Of course, the disputes grow more and more violent, as meanwhile, an out of control wild fire edges closer and closer to their neighborhood. Think maybe that will play a part in the finale?
First of all, let me say that this movie is a big big big big big BIG step up from director Neil LaBute’s last movie, The Wicker Man. Of course, a two hour movie of a dog eating its own vomit would probably be a step up from that travesty of a film. (Sorry for that mental image, by the way.)
As for this movie, I still couldn’t help thinking that in the hands of a better suspense film director (saaaaay, Hitchcock maybe?), this movie could have been very good. As is, it’s just passable. I think Jackson’s character is a bit too angry straight from the get-go. I wish he’d at least tried to have been nice at first, then slowly spiral into the seeming insanity that he displays from basically the beginning of the movie. It’s a quiet insanity, but it’s still there.
Also, there are chances for tense moments that LaBute just lets slip by too quickly. Not to give too much away, but at one point a character needs to find a certain object that is critical to covering up something. Hitchcock would have milked that object for all it’s worth. Having it sit somewhere essentially in plain sight, yet unnoticed by another person. Can character A get it before it’s noticed by character B?? That would be the more suspenseful path to take, but this movie just wants to skip that and get back to the yelling, fighting, and cliche ending.
Speaking of cliches, we get plenty in this movie. Aside from the usual racial stuff, we have the guy who isn’t sure about having a baby (which leads to several arguments), kids who hate their dad, cops and others who don’t believe the protagonists, mildly corrupt cops who look out for each other no matter what, etc etc.
This is a movie with good performances and an interesting set up that just can’t help but become really predictable and formulaic, despite several opportunities to go in more interesting directions.
Do not flick cigarette butts onto Samuel L. Jackson’s property. Under no circumstances.
10 – 3 for being formulaic and predictable – 1 for Abel Turner being too mean straight from the beginning – .4 for some moments where the characters acted irrationally just to move the plot along + .3 for some good performances = 5.9