Director: Henrik Genz
Cast: James Franco, Kate Hudson, Omar Sy, Tom Wilkinson, Anna Friel, Sam Spruell, Diarmaid Murtagh, Lasco Atkins
RunTime: 1 hr 30 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Violence and Coarse Language)
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Official Website: http://www.millenniumfilms.com
Opening Day: 9 October 2014
Synopsis: GOOD PEOPLE is a thriller about an American couple living in London who fall into severe debt renovating his family’s home. And then they find the tenant in their downstairs apartment has passed away and left 200,000 pounds in cash. All they have to do is take the money and all their problems will be solved. So they do, and that’s when very bad things start happening to good people.
The titular individuals here refer to Tom and Anna Wright (played by James Franco and Kate Hudson respectively), an American couple whose livelihoods haven’t gotten much better since they made the move to London. Not only is Tom unable to raise enough cash to renovate the crumbling old house they inherited in the countryside, they are so behind on their mortgage that they have just been served an eviction notice unless they make a sizeable payment within a week.
Their only source of reliable income is the rent they get from the tenant living in their basement, whom they know little of except for the fact that he likes to play video games at full volume. One night when Tom goes to confront him for the same disturbance, he finds the fellow dead in his armchair, the victim of a drug overdose of liquid heroin. But the central conceit of this British crime caper lies in what Tom and Anna decide to do with the duffel bag they find hidden in the ceiling containing some £220,000 - and well, if they had bothered to spend some time watching a few Hollywood movies, they would know that bad things happen to good people precisely from such moments of greed.
And true enough, this is that kind of movie, where Tom and Anna find themselves confronted by a ruthless local gangster Jack (Sam Spruell) with ties to the local police force. What’s more, it turns out that not only did their tenant double-cross Jack, he had also by doing so inadvertently crossed the pompous Parisian drug lord Khan (Omar Sy) - the latter’s introduction to Tom in particular takes the form of a soliloquy in which the villain with the unprepossessing name bothers to explain at length just how a certain conqueror of the same name had rode over all those who refused to be “on his team”.
As adapted by Kelly Masterson from a 2008 novel by Chicago-based author Marcus Sakey, the ensuing cat-and-mouse game plays itself out with surprisingly little surprises - and that basically means you can pretty much connect the dots to guess what is going to happen before it does and just what it is leading up to. Unsurprisingly therefore, it culminates in a three-way showdown at Tom’s rickety house, which the couple have rigged beforehand to unleash a ‘Home Alone’-style retaliation against their assailants. Besides their smarts however, they have an unlikely ally in the form of Detective Halden (Tom Wilkinson), a weary London homicide detective whose interest in the case stems from his own daughter’s demise a few years ago.
But like we said, this isn’t the sort of thriller which tries to be smarter than its audience; in fact, it is generic to a fault, which partly explains why it has been given the direct-to-video treatment in some territories despite its star power. On his part, Danish helmer Henrik Ruben Genz turns in a slick package that manages to hold your attention from start to finish, but that alone is hardly enough to compensate for the pedestrian-ness of the narrative. Masterson’s screenplay also fails to take a character-driven approach to the material, which explains why we can’t quite connect to Franco and Hudson’s characters even though that is what we are meant to do.
It isn’t either actor’s fault though; both Franco and Hudson are likeable persons in their own right, and their own inherent appeal goes a long way in sustaining our interest in their otherwise thinly written characters. Ditto for Wilkinson, the veteran British actor solid in a supporting role that is easily the movie’s most grounded performance. Spruell and Sy both try to chew up their scenery, but Sy’s menacing poise makes him the more compelling one between the two, so much so that one wishes that he were given a meatier role in the first place.
Yes, if you’re a discerning viewer, there are many ways in which ‘Good People’ comes up short; but if you’re simply looking for a time-filler, then this unfussy easy-on-the-eye thriller will probably do the trick. Nevertheless, one wishes that the filmmakers had dared to be more imaginative than their prose, to expand beyond what is really a mediocre novel so as to become better than its source. As it is, it’s neither good nor bad - it’s simply ok, and by that, we also mean forgettable.
(An utterly mediocre thriller that aims to get by with as little surprises as possible)
Review by Gabriel Chong