THE GIFT

PrintE-mail Written by Joel Harley

Jason Bateman has made a career playing nice guy characters with a thinly hidden streak of dickishness (at its most heartbreaking in the last series of Arrested Development); and that, essentially, is what informs The Gift, a film which very cleverly plays on audience expectation throughout.

Moving into his beautiful new home with lovely wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall), life seems to be on the up for the handsome, moderately wealthy Simon. But during a chance encounter in a local store, Simon crosses paths with old schoolmate Gordo (writer/director Joel Edgerton). Phone numbers are awkwardly exchanged and promises to meet again are insincerely dropped. Only Gordo has other ideas, and keeps stopping by at the family home with little gifts, pet fish and pirate copies of Apocalypse Now. While Robyn is happy enough to humour the socially awkward loner, Simon is less patient. Simon says get lost, Gordo the weirdo.

While the Blumhouse Productions label might not lead audiences to expect much from The Gift, there's more going on here than your simple home invasion movie. Or less, even - you'd be disappointed if Gordo suddenly turned up with a roll of duct tape and a chainsaw. Instead, a slow, atmospheric psychological thriller is crafted by Edgerton – think Fatal Attraction by way of the underrated Pacific Heights. There are jump scares and an incredibe tense sense of escalation, but The Gift bears almost nothing in common with the movies name-dropped on its poster. The body count is low and the violence virtually non-existent, but this is never to the film's detriment. There's a remarkable confidence in letting Gordo be creepy without resorting to cheap tricks or having him murder a random cop/family friend just so as we can see how dangerous he is (see: Knock Knock).

Ignore this review – the best way to see The Gift is unspoiled and without expectation. Those expecting a jump-filled home invasion movie may come away disappointed, but everyone else should find much to enjoy in this tense, uncomfortable work of high melodrama.

THE GIFT / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JOEL EDGERTON / STARRING: JASON BATEMAN, REBECCA HALL, JOEL EDGERTON, ALLISON TOLMAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

 


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