Reviewed by Sean Decker
Starring Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lee Pace, Christopher Lee
Directed by Antti Jokinen
Opening today (2/18/11) in limited theatrical release via Image Entertainment and directed by filmmaker and co-writer (with Robert Orr) Antti Jokinen, the psychological thriller The Resident (which hits Blu-ray and DVD on March 29th) is the second modern film to be released by the recently revived Hammer Studios (following last fall’s Let Me In). It revolves around trauma surgeon Juliet Devereau (Academy Award-winner Hilary Swank), a woman who struggles to piece together her life following the infidelities of her husband.
Having relocated to the Big Apple, she leases a spacious apartment in a building under renovation by a rather welcoming and altogether charming landlord (Max, portrayed by terrific actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan), although as she unfortunately soon learns, things aren’t what they appear, and her lessor’s ‘thoughtful’ intentions far surpass acceptable owner/tenant relations.
Sound familiar? It should. This territory has been covered before in countless features, and while The Resident’s press notes reflect influence by Adrian Lyne’s superior stalker flick Fatal Attraction, The Resident also draws heavily in narrative from director David Schmoeller’s 1986 Klaus Kinski vehicle Crawlspace, just as it does from the Philip Noyce-directed 1993 flick Sliver.
Commencing with Hitchcock’esque opening title cards and classy (yet ultimately benign) notes from the film’s composer, John Ottman, The Resident wastes no time in placing the viewer in Juliet’s determined yet precarious emotional state. Swank (who also executive produced The Resident) succeeds here in delivering the pathos of a heartbroken (and occasionally naked, admirers of the actress take note) woman attempting to find balance through the only things left in her control: intense physical exercise and humanitarianism (she’s not only an ER doc, but one whose skin hasn’t grown thick yet enough to distance herself from the plights of her patients).
Determined to set down roots and start her life anew, she soon finds herself leasing a labyrinthine flat with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge, and one entirely questionable in nature, given the miniscule monthly rent requested by her infatuated landlord, Max. Ignoring this rather obvious red flag (he hands her the keys moments after meeting her without even running her credit), Juliet promptly moves into the apartment, although following a brief dalliance with her landlord and subsequent rebuffing of him (she’s not yet over her ex), she finds her life beginning to unravel in a series of increasingly alarming events.
As the landlord, actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan delivers in his first act performance of a lonely yet sweet man, easily convincing the audience of his well-natured intentions via his amiable smile, rugged good looks and apparent familial devotion to his ailing grandfather August, as portrayed by veteran actor Christopher Lee. While it’s an elation to see the classically trained actor appearing in a Hammer flick releasing in 2011 after scores of others, Lee is, however, sorely underused, appearing on screen only for mere minutes. Surely this was an opportunity squandered, and I wonder what possibly transpired during the editing process as to have so defanged a weighty inclusion such as this. Morgan effectively communicates the psychological break of his character as the narrative spools out and believably progresses from ‘landlord with welcome gifts’ to dangerous and Machiavellian voyeur, who spends his hours watching Juliet through myriad pre-positioned peepholes as she sleeps and bathes to eventually brushing his teeth with her toothbrush, masturbating in her bathtub… you get the point. Her rape is inevitable.
Prolific music video director Jokinen and cinematographer Guillermo Navarro do well in framing the goings-on and also take the opportunity to occasionally homage the visual flair of Hammer’s early stable in tone and palette. In The Resident the British film studio’s shadowy Gothic castles have been replaced by the similarly dimly-lit and decaying Brooklyn brownstone, as have their hallmark flowing crimson cloaks by Swank’s red Converse(?) and unfortunately far too well-shadowed, fiery red nail-gun. Production values are also good with set designer J. Dennis Washington delivering a crawlspace which mirrors visually Max’s faltering grasp on reality.
Unfortunately for The Resident, the problems lay in the script and not the cinematic execution, and while the flick gains momentum in the first act, it loses it through a jarring and extended second act flashback (odd choices are made here by film editors Stuart Levy and Bob Murawski). Following this ‘Cliff Notes version as seen by Max’ of the preceding minutes of the film, The Resident somehow finds itself for a time back on track and indeed delivers some rather effective chills with Jokinen ratcheting up the tension deftly.
Ultimately, however, the narrative is unable to maintain this (in addition to other missed opportunities – Jokinen easily could have woven into the proceedings the very effective urban legend known as ‘The Doggy Lick’) – and The Resident woefully degenerates during its final act into the all far too familiar ‘run and chase‘ film, replete with Scream‘esque ‘final jump’ mimickry. Juliet’s efficiency in defending herself during these sequences is too questionable: Wouldn’t an ER doc be a bit more lethal with kitchen cutlery? And wouldn’t a woman so obviously educated and perceptive have recognized her antagonist sooner?
The bottom line? While enjoyable, The Resident would have benefited by a bit more honing on the page before stepping in front of the cameras. Still, I would be remiss to not say that there is exhilaration in seeing that Hammer logo up on the big screen. Here’s to the studio continuing in the genre.
2 1/2 out of 5
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