Studio: Screen Gems
Director: Deon Taylor
Writer: David Loughery
Producer: Roxanne Avent, Deon Taylor, Mark Burg, Jonathan Schwartz, Brad Kaplan
Stars: Dennis Quaid, Michael Ealy, Meagan Good, Joseph Sikora
A young couple buys a Napa Valley home from an unstable man who appears unable to let go of his former house.
Most times, I cover new thrillers as early as anyone else, so I don’t have opportunities to check out other reviews even if I wanted to. Sometimes though, often unavoidably as a side effect of social media, I’m well aware of predominant sentiments circulating around critics and general audiences, especially when I’m catching up on home video months after everyone else saw something in a theater.
In those cases, I don’t believe my own opinions end up colored by outside influences. What bothers me more is suspecting my late-to-the-game review merely reiterates what “everyone else” already said about a particular movie.
This seems to be the situation with “The Intruder” at any rate. What I’d heard ahead of time was that the film followed formula to the point of practically inducing narcolepsy in disinterested viewers. But Dennis Quaid gamely playing up the part of an unstable homeowner who can’t let go of his house made it a worthwhile watch for his kooky performance alone.
That sums up my reaction nicely. To rephrase it more specifically in my own words, “The Intruder” is an average movie made better by Dennis Quaid chewing enough fat on his ham to put a kick of personality in the screenplay’s otherwise plain pants. Should you choose to do so, you now have my blessing to stop right here while nodding, “yep, he has the same assessment as everyone else too.”
Meanwhile, I’ll expand my possibly redundant review with the musing that “The Intruder” would have played more enjoyably if Quaid had gone all the way off the leash to become a completely cartoonish creep. Quaid rarely indulges in this kind of villainy that’s better suited for fallen stars cashing out on a DTV quickie. Nevertheless, he makes it look easy, which it likely is for him. Only modestly restrained, Quaid correctly approaches the character of Charlie Peck like a throwaway lark of a gig, yet his MVP acting chops don’t permit phoning it in, resulting in a mildly wild weirdo that keeps “The Intruder’s” sputtering engine chugging.
It’s also probable that Quaid recognized he couldn’t go too far over the top without throwing the rest of the cast’s casualness out of whack. One of the reasons why the teeter-totter between charming nice guy and off-his-rocker nutcase works so well has to do with how shockingly beige Michael Ealy and Meagan Good are as his opposition.
Ealy and Good feature as Scott and Annie, a milquetoast married couple whose names, ages, and ethnicities are interchangeably irrelevant as far as an indifferent script is concerned. Celebrating a big business deal, Scott and Annie purchase a spacious little hideaway in wine country with an eye toward starting a family. Except even after turning over the property, previous resident Charlie has a hard time saying adieu to his former house. Thus begins a series of awkward encounters escalating into an obsessive nightmare where Charlie will do anything to make his frightening fantasy a reality.
Because Scott and Annie are so boringly basic, Quaid comfortably goes on cruise control by allowing Charlie’s inherently unsettling charisma to sow seeds of intrigue. The tactic mostly works to keep the movie relatively engaging. “The Intruder” is all too familiar for anyone who has seen a remotely similar thriller, meaning the film reads like typical home invasion horror with the difference being that the tenants intimately know their assailant.
Stereotyping such as this also means reducing Annie to an oblivious sidekick while Scott stays smartly alert. It’s a comical conceit that’s particularly tone deaf when recycled in a post-MeToo world of prominent female empowerment. “The Intruder’s” rudimentary writing highlights her horrible characterization by giving Annie a keen sense of suspicion regarding her husband’s infidelity. Yet somehow, she can barely detect a whiff of Charlie’s alarming aura no matter how bizarre his behavior becomes.
Just as curiously, Annie is actually the first one to sense something off about the man, calling Scott at work to tell him Charlie suddenly showed up uninvited to mow their lawn. Despite this initial tingling, Annie’s instinct immediately short circuits, rendering her a disbelieving dummy until an inevitable dawning of realization during the finale.
Box art praises “The Intruder” as “a reverse ‘Get Out’ (review here).” I have no idea what that means. No matter which way I try to interpret that comparison, I cannot decipher what it possibly intends to propose. I’d dig into the actual review that claim comes from to find out, but it seems like such a reach to associate a popular title for a pull quote that I won’t even bother.
Antagonist and protagonist indeed have different skin colors. But other than excessive needle drops of auto-tuned hip-hop tracks, I don’t see how race factors into the film at all.
Mood often plays a big part in how any given person receives a movie. Viewed at a different point in time, I might have been annoyed with “The Intruder’s” overreliance on predictable plotting and tired tropes. But coming off of a 1,300-word review of a more complicated film (nearly 2,800 words if you include the detailed synopsis), it was a momentarily satisfying diversion to take in a movie that didn’t demand as much brainpower, either from its audience or from the filmmakers.
Basically, the preferred way to look at “The Intruder” is as a Lifetime movie-of-the-week that happened to have a multimillion-dollar theatrical makeover. Consider it as anything else and you’ll only soak up dulled disappointment. No matter what, we have Dennis Quaid to thank for singlehandedly elevating the entertainment value as much as mediocrity permits.
Review Score: 55