Friday 11 December 2015

The Boy Next Door (2015) - Movie Review Cohen might be one of the best examples of how not to age gracefully when it comes to the more creative fields. I think at some point after making The Skulls, Cohen had a mid-life crisis that he still hasn’t entirely gotten over because every single film he’s made since then reeks of someone desperately trying to relate to “them young people today”. The Fast & The Furious was full of so much posturing that I’m still surprised that it ended up creating a legitimately good action franchise overall, xXx tried (and failed) to show how it was cooler than James Bond, Stealth was just plain stupid, The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor was a CGI-ridden missed opportunity, and Alex Cross made the oh-so-bright decision to cast Madea as a genius criminal investigator; I’ll probably never forgive him for replacing Idris Elba after that crap. It’s already a bad sign whenever someone wants to make an “erotic thriller”, but when that someone is primarily known for overblown action spectacle, the already low chances of success drop even further. Let’s just see how this turned out.

The plot: High school teacher Claire (Jennifer Lopez), while being separated from her unfaithful husband (John Corbett), catches the eye of her younger next door neighbour Noah (Ryan Guzman). As he connects with not only her but also her teenaged son Kevin (Ian Nelson), Claire is seduced by him into a one-night stand. Even though she saw it as a short lapse of judgement, Noah saw it as something much more… and he is not willing to let her go.

Erotic thrillers are notoriously difficult to tackle without just being softcore porn. As much as people tend to fondly remember Basic Instinct, other than the most famous leg-crossing in all of cinema, chances are we mostly just recollect how hot Sharon Stone was in it. Erotic thrillers, even erotic films in general, take a certain nuance and restraint to work; in record time, it becomes clear that this is severely lacking in both. Let’s start with the acting. Jennifer Lopez has never struck me as that great an actor, and she does absolutely nothing here to change that assumption. I can be forgiving of the whole ‘impossibly hot teacher’ thing, but not with the performance we get from her.

Kristin Chenoweth as Claire’s best friend/co-worker Vicky is really great in more comedic roles and she honestly isn’t that bad in this film. As back-handed a compliment it may be, she’s probably the best actor here. John Corbett is stock cheating husband, not much else to add there, and Ian Nelson is stock teenager. And then we come to Ryan Guzman and I don’t know if this is more his doing or the writer’s, but he actually worked at being normal to begin with. Then the film carries on, and this is why actors knowing how to properly transition between character modes is important because he goes off the rails and just continues to get more deranged as the film goes on.

The writing never once tries for anything clever. It is legitimately at the point where having the antagonist be underage, as was the original plan, would have made the film better; at least then some moral questioning could be made. Instead, we have stereotyped strips of cardboard who have somehow gained sentience who spout out dialogue that I thought died off somewhere in the 90’s. Seriously, double entendres about “getting wet” have no place in a film not made for horny adolescents. However, this film’s writing transcends standard bad writing in that not only are the plot twists painfully predictable, but some of them don’t even amount to anything nor do they ultimately make sense. There’s an entire subplot with Kevin and his love interest that ends on such a bizarre note that I wouldn’t be surprised if a page or two from someone else’s script got picked up by accident during shooting. This is all small potatoes, unfortunately, to the rather unsettling “romantic” tone that this takes. Even considering that this is about a crazy, love-struck stalker, the amount of times that Claire says no to sexual advances (not just from him, by the way) and yet still acquiesces is troubling to say the least. This runs alongside Fifty Shades Of Grey in terms of painfully tenuous consent.

Rob Cohen is not known for doing anything subtle since the turn of the millennium. At first, it’s kind of weird how he chose to do a film that didn’t involve intense violence and/or explosions. Once a hack, always a hack. This film reaches the levels of cartoonishly over-the-top, both with the acting and the action as well. Noah’s temperament and scheming is the stuff of utter schlock and almost descends into the realm of self-parody, except this film can’t even do that right. Add to this the hilariously out-of-place action scenes involving cars, complete with nonsensical explosions, and how atrocious some of the effects work can be and this would almost be yet another film to recommend for unintentional comedy… except the film is taking itself way too seriously for that to work.

There’s an egregiously long zoom out where Noah is talking to Vicky which you would think is leading to some kind of big reveal, but it never does. It’s almost like he was dared to hold a single shot for more than five seconds; congrats, but you still needed to have a point behind that shot. All it results in is more of Cohen’s legendary over-direction that feels like this guy wants to be known as someone who is “stylistic” but doesn’t really know what the word means so he just slaps together shots in the hopes that it will suffice. I was even going to bring up how, even with how overcooked this turkey is, it’s at least an improvement over the dog’s breakfast that is Alex Cross. Here is where I say that, if you are going to watch this film, stop immediately as the credits start as they are full of the nauseatingly excessive editing that so plagued Alex Cross.

All in all, this is just hilariously awful. The acting is either bland or outrageously hammy, the writing is riddled with clich├ęs and the least subtle characterization seen outside of a Lifetime Original Movie and the attempts to keep audiences interested through unnecessary action scenes and disastrous special effects keep attention, but for all the wrong reasons. If you’re in the mood for an extremely campy thriller (read: no frills, no thrills), then this is worth a watch. It’s worse than The Quarantine Hauntings, as that film had some form of ambition behind it and a decent concept at its core. However, whatever comedy can be squeezed out of this thing is at least more consistent than Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.

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