Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Twisted "Good Neighbors" not worth visit

Good Neighbors (2010) 
98 min., rated R.
Grade: C -

The tenants in Canadian writer-director Jacob Tierney's "Good Neighbors" are a rather strange bunch. Louise (Emily Hampshire) is a standoffish cat lover who's quite interested in reading the news reports about a serial killer-rapist in Montreal. When she's not keeping to herself most of the time, she has after-work drinks in her apartment complex with neighbor Spencer (Scott Speedman), a handsome man in a wheelchair. Victor (Jay Baruchel) has just moved in, but he desperately befriends Louise and Spencer. After Louise's cats and a bitchy, alcoholic neighbor die, three becomes a crowd and everyone is a suspect. It's hard to disclose anything more than that without giving much away. 

"Good Neighbors" is Tierney's third Montreal-based feature film (and second starring Hampshire and Baruchel), but it's a real disappointment. Set on the day of a 1955 Quebec sovereignty vote for no reason, this noirish black comedy heads in strange, unpleasant directions that of a tangled, twisted plot much like a Coen Brothers film. Once the easily predicted whodunit is over, a power play between Louise, Spencer, and Victor is introduced and that's where "Good Neighbors" plummets. It should be getting ready to pay off (will the character go through with "it"?), but never quite gets there and just shuts down with a rushed finale. If a plot hole (involving frozen semen as potential evidence) was corrected, "Good Neighbors" might've gone somewhere else. 

No fault of the performers, it's their work that keeps us fixated. Resembling Judy Davis in fidgety mode, Hampshire is completely lived-in as the socially awkward Louise, doing a lot with body language. Speedman lays on the sinister grin pretty thickly, but still keeps us off-balance of his true nature. Baruchel, the most known of the three actors, mostly repeats his nervous, babbling shtick as nice guy Victor, but keeps our suspicion detector buzzing. Canada should be used more often, as Montreal poses as an appropriately chilly spot for a film noir, but it's rarely used to its potential here. "Good Neighbors" has spurts of dark humor and blood but not enough tension to be worth the visit. 

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