[Movie Review] Disturbia

DisturbiaStarring: Shia LaBeouf, Carrie-Anee Moss, David Morse, Aaron Yoo, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Matt Craven
Director: D.J. Caruso
Genre: Thriller
Cert: 15
Released: 2007

Who is Shia LaBeouf? Well, I thought he was a girl to be honest. Turns out he was in “Transformers”, “Constantine” and “I, Robot”. He seems to be a bit of a pin-up for the young girls and perhaps that’s why I’d never heard of him.

In “Disturbia” he plays the main protagonist, Kale, who, a year after losing his father in a tragic accident, gets in to a bit of trouble by punking out his goading Spanish teacher.

Because he’s under 18 a Judge puts him under house arrest, unable to leave the confines of his garden. Bored to tears, Kale spends his time eating junk food and playing video games until his mother, Julie (the MIA Carrie-Anne Moss), snips the TV power cord and cancels his internet game subscriptions. With time to pass Kale grabs his binoculars and takes up spying on his neighbours.

Maybe it’s Kale’s overactive imagination but one night he notices that neighbour Robert Turner (David Morse) drives a car that matches the description of a murder suspect’s car on a local news report. With suspicions aroused, he convinces his best friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) and next-door neighbour Ashley (Sarah Roemer) that something is going on. Although they are dismissive at first, further events lead them deeper in to the mystery. But things are complicated for Kale who wakes up one morning to find Robert in his kitchen, happily chatting to Julie.

With Officer Gutierrez (Jose Pablo Cantillo) eager to settle a score for his Spanish-teaching cousin, Julie becoming more and more disillusioned with her son’s selfish behaviour and Robert shooting some uneasy glares in Kale’s direction is the troubled teen biting off more than he can chew?

“Disturbia” (directed by DJ Caruso who was also responsible for the five-star “Salton Sea”) can be firmly categorised as a teen thriller, carried by the emerging LaBeouf and Roemer and with a lightweight plot to boot. Think “Rear Window” with a lite-tech “Mission Impossible” edge and you’re almost there. The plot doesn’t really go for the twists and the few question marks there are can be quite easy to see through.

Having said that, it would be disingenuous of me to dismiss it out of hand. Caruso does his best with the material and directs effectively, certainly well enough for most 15-20 year olds to be entertained. They will also pull for the angsty LaBeouf and Roemer to get it on. For the older folk like me we can get a kick out of the always excellent David Morse (sporting a mini-mullet) and the beautiful Carrie-Anne Moss who seems way too young to play the mother of a 17 year old character.

Overall “Disturbia” is watchable fare but it will try the patience of those of us who think they are a bit old to relate to the teen romance storyline. Yeuck!



[Movie Review] The Salton Sea

00190_001Starring: Val Kilmer, Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Goldberg, Luis Guzmán, Anthony LaPaglia, Peter Sarsgaard
Director: D.J. Caruso
Genre: Thriller
Cert: 18
Released: 2002

I’ve never heard of director, D.J. Caruso. I’m often weary of people who use initials as their name. You don’t catch me calling myself G.D.. Actually, it sounds pretty cool. From now on, or certainly for the duration of this review, you can call me G.D.

D.J. is no beginner but “The Salton Sea” could probably be his most ambitious and well known project. The panned “Taking Lives” in 2004 was his other big-screen effort but his TV movies “Black Cat Run” (Jake Busey, Patrick Muldoon) and “Mind Prey” (Luis Guzmán) were reasonably well received. The reason I build up all this is because Caruso has quite simply directed one of the stand-out movies of the last few years. You know me (good old G.D.), I’m moderately impressed by plenty but much impressed by little.

Val reflects on "The Island of Dr Moreau" and "The Real McCoy"The movie opens up with a trumpet-playing character (Kilmer – “The Ghost and the Darkness”, “The Doors”, “Batman Forever”) about to be engulfed by fire in a burning building, telling us that he’s a bit of a bad guy but urging us to listen to his story first before we judge him. He is Danny Thomas, a drifter who spends his days and nights doing speed with the likes of Kujo (Goldberg – “A Beautiful Mind”, “Saving Private Ryan”, Eddie in TVs “Friends”) and his best friend, Jimmy the Finn (Sarsgaard – “K-19”, “Boys Don’t Cry”, “Garden State”). To beat a felony rap, he snitches dealers out to police officers, Garcetti (LaPaglia – “Lantana”, “So I Married an Axe Murderer”) and Morgan (Hutchinson – “The Green Mile”, “I Am Sam”, “Batman & Robin”, “Con Air”). They treat him like crap and refuse to protect him when it turns out that a dealer he put away has put a contract out on him.

But behind the tattoos and the drug abuse, Danny seems a nice lad. He shows concern for his new neighbour, Collette (Deborah Kara Unger – “White Noise”, “The Hurricane”, “The Game”), who is being beaten by her abusive boyfriend (the ever brilliant Luis Guzmán – “Magnolia”, “Traffic”, “Boogie Nights”, “Punch-Drunk Love”). He also shows reluctant regret when he sees the distraught wife of a dealer he has shopped (Glenn Plummer – “Speed”, “The Day After Tomorrow”), even though she was abused by him. But Danny’s background is not one of crime and cruelty. He is reflective and mourns the loss of the love of his life, haunted by the thought that he could have done something to save her.

With Garcetti and Morgan no longer protecting him, Danny decides that he has to make some money and ‘go away’. He tries to set up a deal as a middle-man to buy from ruthless drug-baron Pooh-Bear (D’Onofrio – “Ed Wood”, “The Player”, “JFK”, “Full Metal Jacket”, “Malcolm X”) but his buyer (B.D. Wong – “Executive Decision”, “The Substitute 2”, “Jurassic Park”) is moving the goalposts and irritating Pooh-Bear. His life is seemingly falling apart but Danny is determined to get through it and try to find out who he is exactly. He warns you at the start – nothing is as it seems.

There are so many elements to “The Salton Sea” that elevate it right up there in to my all time top ten. I rented this originally because my top man, Anthony LaPaglia, was in it. And while he plays his police officer role with his usual, entertaining intensity (although it’s quite a shock to find that he doesn’t like dolphins), the quirky characters that pop up throughout are one of the main drivers.

The movie is set apart during moments like when dealer, Bobby, whacked out of his head on meths, starts aiming a Vincent actually put on 3 stone for this role. Nutter.spear gun at Danny and Jimmy asking them if they brought the ‘plastic men’ and then introducing himself as ‘the ocean’. Surreal characters like Pooh-Bear who has no nose, hasn’t slept in a year and recreates the Kennedy assassination using pigeons in a remote-control car or Asian cowboy, Bubba, who likes to call Danny ‘Hoss’, bring a unique slant to the film.

There are numerous laugh-out-loud moments like when Danny comes-to and wonders to himself if he has died. The first thing he spots is linoleum – “This must be hell”. When foul-mouthed Quincy (Guzmán), who is in the middle of aggressively banging down Collette’s door, asks him what he’s looking at, Danny casually replies “I was just admiring your boots. Did you purchase them locally?”.

And there are twists and turns along the way. Not all of them are completely logical or likely, but as plot devices they work perfectly and there is not that much suspension of belief required.

As I say the characters are terrific, backed by a sharp script (Tony Gayton – “Murder by Numbers”) and some spot-on direction from Caruso. Stylish close-ups, slow-motion and occasionally abstract scenes make this seem like it came straight out of Tarantino’s hot period in the early-mid nineties.

Thankfully no mistakes were made in casting, and while the cast is quite well known there are no names here for the sake of it. Kilmer is not someone I’ve ever warmed to on the screen but he’s outstanding as Danny whether he is being humorous or overwrought. D’Onofrio is just about the MVP, putting on about 50lbs for his role as mega-psycho dealer, Pooh-Bear. His appearance, the “nose” back story and his hilarious and ill-fitting accent make him one of cinema’s weirdest characters in a long time. Plummer is brilliant in his small role as Bobby, Guzmán is class as usual and Unger, who I only recalled from 1992s “Whispers in the Dark”, does a more than solid job.

“The Salton Sea” is a top-notch movie which inexplicably seemed to disappear off the radar, only having a limited release and picking up just one Prism award for best actor (Kilmer). G.D. don’t fawn over too many films but this is one that gets just about everything right.