When a successful country lawyer captures and attempts to "civilize" the last remaining member of a violent clan that has roamed the Northeast coast for decades, he puts the lives of his family in jeopardy.
Brandon Gerald Fuller,
Lauren Ashley Carter
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Based on the Jack Ketchum novel of the same name, The Girl Next Door follows the unspeakable torture and abuses committed on a teenage girl in the care of her aunt...and the boys who witness and fail to report the crime.
An older, reclusive man's best friend and inspiration for living is his 14-year-old dog named "Red". When three troublesome teens kill the dog for no good reason, the grieving man sets out for justice and redemption by whatever means available to him. Written by
Lucky McKee was the original director and had been shooting for weeks when he was fired and replaced by Trygve Allister Diesen for unknown reasons. Angela Bettis (a frequent McKee collaborator) was also attached to the project, playing the role of 'Carrie', but was fired and replaced by Kim Dickens for, again, unknown reasons. See more »
The combination of Brian Cox and Tom Sizemore in a film based upon a Jack Ketchum novel (bizarrely spelled Jack Ketchmum in the trailer) and the direction of cult-courting Lucky McKee certainly peaked my interest and therefore I awarded this film some of my time. The premise was something that also appealed to me - a kind of "Falling Down" but with a more mediative, Western styling.
The story is a simple but, on the surface, a powerful one. Brian Cox is Avery Ludlow, a veteran who hides his tortuous family history behind his love for his faithful dog, Red. One day while fishing, he is approached by three delinquents who try to rob him. Realising that he lacks anything of worth, the cocky leader of the pack, Danny, shoots dead his dog, laughs about it with his brother and friend, and then walks off. Ludlow is determined to get justice, but finds hurdles at every stage, from the boy's arrogant father, to a reluctant town sheriff.
The acting in this film was excellent. Brian Cox is superb as the graceful recluse seeking justice. He plays his role in a remarkably understated manner that compliments his experience and wisdom. Whether he is brutally taking on the perpetrators or solemnly reminiscing about the tragic circumstances that led to his wife and son's death, Cox is brilliant at making us feel a warm empathy with him, and makes us want to join him on his quest for justice. Kudos must also be given to Tom Sizemore, who is wonderfully repugnant as Michael McCormack, the arrogant, millionaire father of Danny the delinquent. He really does shine and show what a great actor he can be when he is not in trouble for one reason or another. It would be fair to say that he is much better at eliciting disgust than Cox is at eliciting empathy (although this is a much easier task) and his evolution from his first meeting with Cox, to the final showdown is a joy to watch and anticipate.
The other actors play their parts competently. I was a bit apprehensive about Noel Fisher as Danny at first, as he was guilty of slight overacting in his first scene. However, upon finishing the film, the acting style perfectly complimented his role as a narcissistic youth with no empathy, and overall he was very good in the film. Kyle Gallner, who plays his shy brother, and Shiloh Fernandez as his equally minded friend are also good, with Gallner excelling in the film's climax. The other major part is that of reporter Carrie Donnel, played by Kim Dickens. She is not bad in her role but it is entirely unnecessary, which brings me on to the film's flaw - it's script.
The film really does shine when there are scenes of direct confrontation. Anything between Cox and Fisher after their first meeting, or anything with Sizemore. The film really does suffer when the action is diverted to scenes of a more meditative nature. Donnel's role is far too over played, and her emergence as some sort of bizarre is she/isn't she love interest at the end severely harms the movie. The only things that ties the two together is Cox's consistently brilliant acting. His monologue on how his family fell apart is beautiful and haunting, with the camera lingering on his wise yet hurt face. Likewise, he is respectably sinister in his pursuit of justice, and the film really picks up pace in the final third, building to an excellent climax involving Cox, Sizemore, and his family. Indeed, after a slow, slightly turgid middle, this comes as a great relief. What a shame then that it is spoilt by a horribly put together ending that literally screams "TV MOVIE!" It is far too contrite, and does not favours to Cox or the film. I understand that McKee was replaced by a more happy-friendly director during filming, and his influence is clearly felt here (one wonders how McKee would have done the ending). Other than that though, the film maintains a consistent indie-Western style, and any notions of two directors are not realised.
It is this paltry ending that forces me to award this 7 out of 10. The film has many memorable moments, but is ruined by its final scene. I suggest watching this, if just for the confrontation scenes, and the film does certainly keep you guessing as to how it will end, but if it had just been more adventurous at various points then this could have been a very good film.
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