The Good Neighbor (2016): Sadly Entertaining (Review)

Written by Mark Bianculli and Jeff Richard and directed by Kasra Farahani, The Good Neighbor is a decent thriller with a twist.  The film stars 76 year old Oscar nominee James Caan as Harold Grainey.  As the next door neighbor of Ethan (Logan Miller) the old man gets some unwanted attention from the teen who, along with his best mate Sean (Keir Gilchrist) sets up an elaborate prank.

Initially, Sean is all in. He sets up the electronic devices, mini-cams and motion cams that will all play a part in the trick on Grainey. Ethan records the day-to-day results of his prank. The object is to make the old man believe his house is haunted.

As the film progresses things change.  Grainey is not the horrid “wife beater” Ethan says he is.  The harmless prank is also not what it seems. Ethan has a bone to pick with the old man.

Watching the events unfold, it is all too clear that this exercise will not end well for anyone.  We learn more about everyone involved in the prank. Ethan has a hidden agenda and Sean is not socially adept. Grainey lives in a house full of memories and each “event” in the house brings another back.

The film ends on a surprising note and somewhat like Tallulah it leaves the audience in the lurch, so to speak. There is the same sense of disturbance that the Ellen Page film offers at its end.  Both have to do with a main character’s ambiguity.

James Caan is marvelous as Grainey.  The actor underplays his role beautifully and with a minimum of dialogue speaks volumes with his body language.

Logan Miller and Brit actor Gilchrist both fill out their roles with a sense of truth and really help to move this film along.  The Good Neighbor  is classed as a thriller, but it is also a drama and a mystery.

Grainey is an enigma at the start of the film and it is only as he remembers times past that we start to understand him that bit more.

In many ways, The Good Neighbor feels like a twisted real-life version of the 2006 animated treat Monster House.  Ethan and Sean are the Chowder and DJ in this scenario with Grainey taking the part of Nebbercracker.  The old man is even attached to his home because of his wife.

There are no comic moments in this version of Monster House. James Caan does not terrorize the neighborhood kids, nor does he yell about keeping off his lawn.  Grainey does scare the hell out of one neighbor with an over enthusiastic dog but the man is mainly a recluse; living in a house full of memories.

In terms of guessing the end, “The Good Neighbor” will keep the audience in the dark until the very end.  Everything clicks into place and the film’s message slams home.

The performances from all involved were spot on.  Mindy Sterling, currently working as a regular in Con Man, proves once again that even in a role that takes less than a minute onscreen she delivers.

The Good Neighbor is a full 5 star feature that delivers across the board. Excellent writing, acting and photography work together to make a film that is compelling and sadly entertaining.

The film is streaming on Netflix and deserves a look or two.

The Gambler: Mark Wahlberg Leaves Audience Dumbfounded and Depressed

The Gambler: Mark Wahlberg Leaves Audience Dumbfounded and Depressed

Mark Wahlberg is Jim Bennett in this remake of the 1974 James Caan film The Gambler and as directed by Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) this version leaves the audience dumbfounded, depressed and not a little confused. Like the original film, Wahlberg’s gambler is a academic figure, a professor who teaches literature at an unidentified Los Angeles college. Jim Bennett is a published author who has given up writing to teach it, or rather to discourage others from participating as writers.