The period French Canadian setting of the thriller Good Neighbors
and its cultural allusions will probably go over the heads of most non-Canadian viewers, but the deliciously twisted nature of the plot is universal.
In October 1995. the Notre-Dame-de-Gras neighborhood of Montreal is gripped by fear as a serial rapist and killer has left three women dead and counting. In the midst of this chaos, a mild-mannered 20-something school teacher named Victor (Jay Baruchel) moves into a small apartment building and quickly latches himself onto new neighbors Spencer (Scott Speedman) and Louise (Emily Hampshire). Although the snarky friends (with benefits?) are less than welcoming, the socially oblivious Victor worms his way into their social circle.
The closer Victor gets to Louise, the more suspicious Spencer becomes of his hidden intentions, and with good reason: Victor, Spencer and Louise all have dark secrets, but could one of them really be a killer?
The End Result
Scott Speedman in 'Good Neighbors'.© Magnolia
is one of those movies where the less you know going in, the better the experience. What begins likes a straightforward whodunit takes an unexpectedly dark and twisted turn as it delves into intriguing character studies of three seemingly normal people who are each unhinged in their own way. It's part thriller, part quirky drama and all wickedly fascinating as it builds to a climactic showdown that unfortunately fails to exploit the full potential of the setup. The movie could've culminated in a half-dozen smart and innovative ways, but it chooses none of them, going out with a halfhearted whimper.
If the ending utilized the same twisty cat-and-mice theatrics of the rest of the film, Good Neighbors could've been a home run, and you'd be more willing to overlook some questionable plot points. As it is, the story is plagued by vagueness and an early reveal that saps much of the suspense from the movie (although some dramatic intrigue remains). The acting is strong throughout, but the sometimes matter-of-fact direction could play up the quirky, disturbing, almost darkly comedic nature of the script -- like Three's Company by way of Neil LaBute with an Eli Roth chaser.
- Acting: B (The strong cast anchors the uneven script.)
- Direction: C+ (Could've been a bit more over-the-top, playing to the oddball nature of the story.)
- Script: C+ (Great dark, offbeat setup fails to deliver.)
- Gore/Effects: C+ (Shocking without overly graphic gore.)
- Overall: B- (Breathes new life into the standard whodunit, albeit not as much life as it could've.)
Good Neighbors is directed by Jacob Tierney and is rated R by the MPAA for strong violence, sexual content, graphic nudity and language. Release date: July 29, 2011 (June 24 on demand).