Thursday 14 February 2008

Disturbia (2007)

Thursday 14 February 2008
Director: D.J Caruso
Writer: Christopher B. Landon & Carl Ellsworth (from a story by Christopher B. Landon)

Cast: Shia LaBeouf (Kale Brecht), Sarah Roemer (Ashley Carlson), Carrie-Anne Moss (Julie Brecht), David Morse (Robert Turner), Aaron Yoo (Ronnie), Jose Pablo Cantillo (Officer Gutierrez), Matt Craven (Daniel Brecht), Viola Davis (Det. Parker), Kevin Quinn (Mr Carlson), Elyse Mirto (Mrs Carlson), Rene Rivera (Senor Gutierrez), Amanda Walsh (Minnie Tyco) & Charles Carroll (Judge)

A teenager, electronically tagged and unable to leave his house, begins to suspect his neighbour is a killer...

An obvious update/homage of Alfred Hitchcock's far superior Rear Window, Disturbia is a perfectly fine teen thriller that is content to have mild fun with its concept, although it plods to an obvious ending after a frothy and fun set-up.

Shia LaBeouf (the "new Tom Hanks" according to his Transformers producer and Indy 4 director Steven Spielberg), headlines as Kale Brecht -- in a film that has similarities to Hanks' The 'Burbs. Kale lives with his single-parent mother (Matrix's Carrie-Anne Moss), after his father died in a tragic road accident – an early shock in the film.

After being riled into punching his Mexican teacher at school, Kale is electronically-tagged and put under house arrest by a Judge for a few months. Facing an inordinate amount of time at home, Kale fills his time watching trash TV and eating junk food, until his mother unplugs his appliances as further punishment – and he's forced to turn voyeur on the unwitting neighbourhood. The Rear Window vibe rears its head, as Kale starts to enjoy "reality television" through his windows -- armed with a video-camera and big binoculars...

He shares his new world-view with initially-disinterested friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), with both hormonal boys later taking a particular interest in sexy new neighbour Ashley Carlson (Sarah Roemer) – who likes to take daytime dips in a pool Kale's bedroom window happens to overlook.
Around this time, Disturbia looks set to be an enjoyable little pot-boiler. Despite the sheer unoriginality of everything, it's at least borrowing from a Hitchock premise that actually benefits from an update to our camera-obsessed century.

LaBeouf is possibly the most natural teenage performer to grace the screen in years, and makes Kale an immediately endearing and plausible character. Roemer isn't too bad either in an underwritten role, although the script is overly keen to letch on her... and she practically vanishes from the film once things turn nasty!

The point where Disturbia goes from an intriguing little film into a formulaic disappointment, is when Kale starts to believe neighbour Robert Turner (David Morse) is a murderer. At first, this is fun and the natural twist to his well-meaning voyeurism. But you can practically write the script yourself from that point, and the storyline doesn't even bother to surprise you with any twists along the way. David Morse regularly plays snake-eyed villains, and so it comes to pass... after the obligatory attempts to snoop around Turner's house, run-ins with disbelieving police officers, blah-blah-blah...

LaBeouf holds the film together, and director D.J Caruso doesn't do too badly executing the script, but it's a shame there wasn't more ambition and thrills to be had with Christopher B. Landon and Carl Ellsworth's screenplay. It all comes to a predictable climax, which borders on silliness quite often, before the obvious resolution.

Overall, this is the kind of film that does exactly what you expect, but thankfully does it quite well. The quality slips after the first act, but Shia LaBeouf is a compelling screen presence, Roemer is easy on the eye, and there's some fun in seeing the next-door psycho get his just desserts. It's mostly a missed opportunity, though -- especially given the pedigree of the idea, and the stronger relevance of voyeurism on society these days -- but Disturbia is by no means a total bore.

Budget: $20 million
105 minutes

PICTURE: 1.85:1 | SOUND: SDDS / DTS-ES / Dolby Digital EX |