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edge staff writer


Home sweet home - ‘The Intruder’

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With the “Avengers: Endgame” monolith dominating the box office as expected, the big-screen offerings of early May were always going to be a bit offbeat. Studios were aware that specifically-aimed counterprogramming would be the only way to ride out the massive second and third weekends from the MCU juggernaut.

But no one could have expected something like “The Intruder,” a weird little bit of B-movie genre filmmaking featuring a pulpy blend of thriller themes and a delightfully bonkers performance from Dennis Quaid. It is unapologetic and unrelenting in its choices, committing fully to a mess of stalker/home invasion tropes sprinkled with periodic moments of intentional unintentional comedy.

Basically, if you could distill the desire to shout “Don’t go in there!” at a movie screen and turn it into an actual movie, you’d pretty much have “The Intruder.”

Scott Russell (Michael Ealy, TV’s “Being Mary Jane”) is a successful marketing executive living in San Francisco with his wife Annie (Meagan Good, “Shazam!”). While the two are happy with their city lives, Annie wants nothing more than to move to the country – specifically, the Napa Valley – and start a family.

Despite some misgivings, Scott agrees to go look at a place with Meagan. And what a place it is, a beautiful old house with lovely grounds abutting a nature preserve, ensuring a welcome degree of privacy. The seller, a man named Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid, “Kin”), clearly loves the house and is reluctant to let it go, but after some negotiation on the price, he agrees to the sale.

Scott and Annie move into the house, but it soon becomes clear that Charlie is having trouble letting go. He keeps turning up unannounced at the house. He takes it upon himself to mow the lawn and maintain the landscaping. The date of his departure – he’s moving in with his daughter in Florida – keeps changing. Scott is unnerved by Charlie’s behavior, but Annie believes him to be a harmless old man.

However, we start to see glimpses that Charlie is far from harmless. His insinuation into the lives of the Russells becomes steadier. His behaviors become less and less rational. Scott begins to suspect that there’s a lot more going on beneath Charlie’s seemingly amiable demeanor – something sinister.

Annie and Scott are jumping at shadows, on edge with every nighttime creak of the house. And Charlie, well … Charlie might be willing to do the unthinkable in order to regain what he believes that he has lost.

So – “The Intruder” is a RIDICULOUS movie. Its attempt to create a hybrid thriller via cribbing from both the stalker and home invasion subgenres is actually kind of novel, even as it results in something that is so campy and over the top that it occasionally seems to wear itself out, so vigorously is it elbowing the audience in the ribs. Winks and nods abound, resulting in a movie that is shaggily entertaining and fun to watch (just as long as you don’t think about it too much). It’s a story designed more to induce chuckles than shrieks – even the jump scares have an element to the absurd to them that will surprise a laugh or three out of you.

The narrative of “The Intruder” – such as it is – doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, but it doesn’t have to. Thematically, it’s a bit more sophisticated than you might expect, though the questions it raises about sociopolitical dynamics are basic (and never get really addressed anyway). It’s kind of a muddy mess packed with questionable decisions by allegedly intelligent people. And yet … still kind of fun.

Ealy and Good are a solid pairing here. They have a nice chemistry that allows them to play the ups and downs of their relationship with equal engagement. Good somehow sells her willingness to give the benefit of the doubt throughout, despite the clear and obvious red flags flapping in the breeze. Her performance ensures that Annie never crosses the line from naïve to dumb, which, trust me, is a significant accomplishment. Ealy provides a nice counterpoint; his performance is marked by a constant sense of barely-contained incredulity, as if he’s just managing to keep himself from turning to the audience with a “Can you believe this s—t?” eyeroll.

But really, the movie belongs to Dennis Quaid. Anyone who signs on to do a movie like this one is obviously prepared to go for it, but Quaid GOES FOR IT. He is a grab bag of scenery-chewing weirdness. He maintains eye contact too long and smiles with just his mouth; there’s an emptiness there that he occasionally fills with bizarre outbursts – some verbal, others physical. He is so gleefully committed to the bit, like he’s having the time of his life. It’s tough not to enjoy what he’s doing because he himself is so obviously enjoying it.

“The Intruder” is an odd little artifact, possessed of both modern sensibilities and a distinctive throwback vibe. It’s got tons of problems and is far from a masterpiece, but it's tough to deny the entertainment value here. Thanks to plenty of self-awareness and a fully here-for-it Dennis Quaid, you’ll almost certainly have a good time despite yourself.

And if you happen to yell “Don’t go in there!” at some point, well … so be it.

[3 out of 5]


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