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Thursday, May 9, 2019 12:04 am

Flimsy Intruder quite timely


On the surface, Deon Taylor’s The Intruder is nothing more than a home invasion thriller akin to Pacific Heights and Unlawful Entry, thrillers from the ‘90s in which yuppie landlords were terrorized by tenants or trespassers who were the basis for Benjamin Franklin’s old adage about guests and fish.  Yet, coming as it does midway through the Trump presidency, there’s a disturbing subtext here that puts the mindset of a certain threatened segment of our society in the spotlight. 

Scott and Annie Russell (Michael Ealy and Megan Good) are a young, successful African-American couple who have a bright future ahead of them.  He’s a successful advertising executive, she’s a freelance writer and together they hope to move away from San Francisco and start a family.  They think they’ve found the perfect place in Napa Valley, a country mansion that sits on a wooded estate that radiates old world charm.  Widower Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid) is lonely and rambling about this vast place and is quite taken with the young couple, so much so he agrees to sell to them after their initial meeting.  Scott has his reservations about the arrangement but Annie loves the house and before you know it, they’re moving in.  Problem is, Peck has a hard time moving on and before they know it, he’s showing up unannounced to cut the grass, or make a repair or drop off some wine or just come by on the flimsiest pretense.  

It’s written by David Loughery, whose resume includes Lakeview Terrace (2008) and Obsessed (2009), indicating he specializes in paranoid thrillers.  The film proceeds as expected – Peck’s visits become more frequent, the Russells become more terrified and there is nary a surprise to be had.  (Correction – there is one surprise, and it’s a pretty good one.) Taylor is unable to bring any sense of style or energy to the affair and the story simply plods along to its predictable conclusion.

However, there’s some pointed social commentary along the way that will cause the attentive viewer to perk up and take notice now and again.  Peck proves to be the very model of the conservative, older white male.  He’s a gun owner, his family’s wealth was accumulated through grit and hard work, he takes great pride in “his” property and is described by Annie as a “manly man,” which her husband is not.  It’s also no accident that the character wears a red baseball cap from time to time.  Like so many who are resistant to social change and can give no rational or cogent argument against it, Peck does all he can to hang on to what is his, resorting to violence when necessary, justifying his actions as his right. Those who watch the nightly news will be more than familiar with men of this ilk. That he sexually assaults Annie at one point makes this character all the more reprehensible.

Credit Quaid with driving this home with a combination of his trademark charm and a bit of the psychotic which has been lurking beneath his persona for years. Overly familiar throughout, he single-handedly builds a sense of unease that blossoms into a terrifying portrayal of a lost man fueled by a dangerous sense of righteousness.  In this, The Intruder is spot on regarding the current state of mind of MAGA-lovers everywhere. Too bad this timely message is lost in a throwaway movie.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.


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