“I have a new friend…Charlie”
Robert De Niro and child wunderkind Dakota Fanning star in a decent thriller with an audience-driven plot and good suspense. The recent thriller boom (e.g. White Noise, The Grudge, M. Night Shymalan’s films) has certainly revitalized the genre, but also raised audience expectations. In this case, theater owners didn’t receive the final reel until opening day, so the twists and ending surprises wouldn’t be prematurely revealed.
De Niro stars as David Callaway, a psychologist addressing some family problems after a tragedy. Fanning equals De Niro with her considerable acting talents as Emily Callaway, a smart, but troubled girl who grows more isolated. Elisabeth Shue stars as Elizabeth, a local woman who befriends the Callaways while Famke Janssen stars as Katherine, David’s work colleague.
Other supporting characters in the neighborhood factor into the plot only to create misdirection and raise suspicions of the audience. Originality lacks in certain areas, namely the more conventional ending and rehashed dialogue like “Come out, come out wherever you are” (Cape Fear) while still following a plausible plot. A better musical score (done here by John Ottoman) really could’ve improved this film.
If you let your imagination run wild, you’ll get more entertainment from the plot, but if you only think in limited parameters, the plot might become predictable. Australian director John Polson (Swimfan) works in limited settings, but really knows how to the set up the action through careful framing and concentrates the camera lens on the film’s biggest assets – the actors.
The high levels of acting and genuine surprises (if no one spoils them for you first) raise this film a notch above mediocrity. It’s refreshing to see a thriller without a lot of special effects and supernatural elements that yields solid results. Recommended with reservations (** out of four stars) and rated R for violence and frightening sequences.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler