A slick and soulless black comedy thriller entirely devoid of either laughs or drama, Home Sweet Hell is about as by-the-numbers as it comes. In spite of the occasional naked bottom, numerous F-bombs and a fair amount of blood spatter, the paucity of imagination and a complete absence of plot chicanery combine to produce something that appears to have been workshopped into anodyne Hollywood anonymity.
Don Champagne (Patrick Wilson) is the henpecked owner of a furniture store, his wife Mona (Katherine Heigl) so obsessed with achieving the “perfect life”, she schedules their sexual encounters for the 9th day of every second month. And then Dusty (Jordana Brewster) appears, the super-sexy new shop assistant who is only too keen to begin an affair with Don – until she reveals she’s pregnant and starts demanding money. But it’s Mona (and her parents) who control the purse-strings, and when Don can’t pay up things quickly spiral out of control.
Home Sweet Hell is a polished enough production, and perfectly pleasant in a glossy and serviceably mainstream way. But it is entirely functional, with nothing to distinguish it beyond the station it shares with the remakes of The Stepford Wives or The Wicker Man. With just a touch of inspiration and a little spirit it might have been as sharp as To Die For or as enjoyable as Heartbreakers.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the performances themselves, the actors have simply been left hanging by both script and direction. Heigl is generally strong in a criminally inconsistent part, but the likeable Wilson feels all at sea, never quite sure whether to play all out for the laughs. Jim Belushi, as Don’s workmate Les, does as much as he can with no more than the mildest of funny lines, and it is probably Jordana Brewster as Dusty, looking barely a day older than she did in The Faculty, whose character has the greatest cohesion and who therefore convinces the most.
The film’s biggest problem, beyond its basic failure to intrigue, is the signposting of almost every plot development, and worse yet the shortage of developments in the plot. The premise promises the kind of hysteria of Very Bad Things, but Home Sweet Hell is more of a Big Nothing. Mona finds out about the affair, Mona deals with it, Mona gets dealt with. That’s it. The scriptwriters don’t even bother to devise an interesting method by which Mona makes her discovery; they simply have her husband confess. Every time there’s an opportunity for something diverting to happen, the dullest route is taken instead.
Which is a shame, as there is enough decent talent involved to make this very watchable. Just disengage your critical faculties first.
Special Features: Electronic press kit / Deleted scenes
INFO: HOME SWEET HELL / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ANTHONY BURNS / SCREENPLAY: CARLO ALLEN, TED ELRICK, TOM LAVAGNINO / STARRING: KATHERINE HEIGL, PATRICK WILSON, JORDANA BREWSTER, JIM BELUSHI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW