THE INTRUDER is mostly listless, scare-free nonsense, but an entertaining performance from Dennis Quaid manages to give the film a pulse, elevating this clichéd, implausible thriller into something watchable. When successful young married couple Annie and Scott (Meagan Good and Michael Ealy) buys their dream house, a lavish woodsy estate in the tranquility of Napa Valley, they think they have found the perfect home to take their next steps as a family. The price is $3.5M, but the current owner Charlie (Dennis Quaid – introduced shooting a deer right in front of them) likes them so knocks the price down to $3.3 and throws in his late wife’s tapestries (though this hardly seems like ‘for-sale-by-owner’ material, there’s no real estate agent in sight). Annie and Scott are thrilled, but when Charlie shows up mowing the grass a couple of days after the move and works hard to make himself part of their lives, they begin to realize he may have hidden motivations beyond a quick sale.
Typical of the genre, the audience catches on long before the characters do. The house may not be a fixer-upper, but THE INTRUDER’s script is. It’s handsomely produced hokum, big- budget gloss, competently directed but unremarkable. Deon Taylor (who directed last year’s similar TRAFFIK) likes to treat the audience to Charlie popping up ‘unexpectedly’ in shot after shot. Charlie’s like a comic-book villain whose power is to simply appear ‘unexpectedly’ in the frame. Scott’s doomed buddy Mike (Mike Sikora) drops cigarettes butts on Charlie’s (former) property only to be punished by being chased through the woods by our axe-wielding villain (who’s of course emerged ‘unexpectedly’.) Even the climax, the most action-oriented part, is so mired in cliches and unintentionally silly character actions that it probably wouldn’t raise the heart rate of an easily-frightened child.
Randy Quaid’s slightly tongue-in-cheek edge gives THE INTRUDER some zest. Quaid’s a pro and could easily have gone over the top here, but he soft-pedals Charlie’s menace and then revs it up gradually, like the best villains, without broadcasting evil from the very first scene. Quaid provides not just energy, but some sexual tension as well. The audience is invited to identify with the sophisticated Scott and Annie but Quaid’s so good he makes our two heroes seem bland. It’s tough to believe Megan Good, a model of urban savvy (introduced as a writer “mostly for women’s magazines on the subjects of injustice” who’s never once shown writing), as a dimwitted dolt who can’t hear the alarms going off all around her. Long after Quaid cranks up the menace and the score informs us with each shuddering note that he’s a nasty piece of work, Ms Good remains clueless. Michael Ealy has less screen time as Scott, who’s a “marketing genius” (we know this because there are a couple of scenes in his office where people call him a “marketing genius”). Scott is more suspicious of Charlie than Annie, but is distracted by a sexy co-worker (Carolyn Anderson), an infidelity subplot that’s abandoned almost as soon as it’s introduced. Despite good work from Mr. Quaid, THE INTRUDER is a by-the-numbers thriller, so keep your expectations low.
2 1/2 of 5 Stars
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