Director: Antti Jokinen
Cast: Hillary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lee Pace, Christopher Lee, Aunjanue Ellis
RunTime: 1 hr 31 mins
Released By: InnoForm Media & GV
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scene & Some Violence)
Official Website: www.theresidentthemovie.com
Opening Day: 29 April 2011
Synopsis: Every year, three million single women in America move into an apartment for the first time. They do not know who lived in the apartment before them, they do not know their landlords, and they don’t bother to change the locks. This is the story of one such woman…
After separating from her husband, pretty young doctor Juliet Dermer moves to Brooklyn, settling into a new life in a stunning and spacious loft apartment that seems too good to be true. Mysterious occurrences lead her to suspect that she is not alone in her home and quickly her fears become all too real. In a chilling revelation, she discovers that her seemingly charming, young landlord, Max, has developed a dangerous obsession with her. A terrifying game of cat and mouse ensues as Juliet fights to free herself from Max’s sinister intentions.
It’s probably no more than coincidence, but still it’s interesting to note how the two movies that have boldly dared to open alongside Marvel’s summer superhero juggernaut “Thor” are both about a woman who becomes the target of someone else’s dangerous obsession within their place of stay. While the stalker is said woman’s new college roommate in the other movie, it is young doctor Juliet Devereau’s landlord here in “The Resident”- and a male at that, in contrast to “The Roommate’s” female.
Juliet is played by Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank, and while this thriller could not be further from her “Million Dollar Baby”, the box-office reception to her movies in the years since (e.g. “The Reaping”, “Amelia” and most recently “Conviction”) hasn’t been exactly kind. Nevertheless, Swank is more than a competent actress, and she carries the movie skilfully with a nuanced performance as the victim of another person’s mania. Indeed, she lets her audience feel her character’s naivety, helplessness and desperation keenly, which makes the eventual denouement between victim and stalker much more engrossing.
The stalker is the landlord of the building in which she rents an apartment overlooking New York’s East River, having just separated from her boyfriend (Lee Pace). Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) at first appears to be the perfect proprietor, ever ready to attend to any problems in her apartment and hunky enough for Juliet to consider as a rebound guy- that is, until she gets cold feet and breaks it off. Big mistake- turns out Max ran into Juliet months ago at the hospital she works, decided he liked her, and deliberately set things up so she would come knocking to rent the apartment from him.
With the villain revealed within the first half-hour of the film, Finnish director Antti Jokinen- who makes her feature film debut- has an uphill task keeping her audience’s attention on Max’s increasingly intrusive and even violently obsessive ways. But Jokinen does an efficient job maintaining the suspense of the film, as we watch Max go from using her toothbrush and lying in the bathroom in the day to caressing her in bed at night after knocking her out with a drug mixture. If the film remains disturbingly riveting, it is because the film plays nicely on its audience’s own fears of home invasion.
Jokinen however reserves any action for the last 20 minutes of the film after Juliet discovers Max’s horrifying secret. It’s an appropriately exciting, and vicious even, finale that uses the labyrinth of hidden passageways behind the walls of the apartment from which Max hides to spy on Juliet to great claustrophobic effect. Despite the visceral thrills, the conclusion leaves something to be wanting- particularly because Jokinen and her co-writer Rober Orr fail to offer stronger motivation behind Max’s obsession.
There are some flashbacks and “Dracula” actor Christopher Lee’s brief supporting role as Max’s authoritarian granddad, but largely the story doesn’t offer enough for us to believe in Max’s lunacy. Morgan too doesn’t command enough menace, and seems more comfortable playing Mr Nice Guy at the start of the film than Mr Crazy Guy by its end. One wonders if it would have been better if the writers had simply left out Max and Juliet’s brief fling and cast someone more credible, like Morgan’s fellow “Watchmen” actor Jackie Earle Haley, as Max.
Yet in spite of its flaws, those looking for a little counter-programming opposite “Thor” should find this a effective thriller that has its moments of genuine suspense and excitement. This is also legendary horror studio Hammer’s third feature film since its recent comeback, and its first in 35 years with Christopher Lee- yet another solid effort after last year’s “Let Me In” and should bode well for their return to mainstream territory
(A solid, effective thriller with moments of genuine suspense and a tense, exciting finale)
Reviewed by Gabriel Chong