The building may not have a Panic Room, a P2 parking garage or a blinking Bates Motel vacancy sign next to it but long before ER doctor Juliet Devereau (Hilary Swank) gets all stalked and bothered in her new apartment, audiences quickly realize that something is rotten in Brooklyn within the first ten minutes of Hammer Films’s sleazy subpar creeper The Resident.
Successfully building tension in a thriller is a lot like constructing a house of cards instead of bricks so that viewers can count along while seeing both sides to look beyond the surface of a joker or a king of a deck stacked in the villain’s favor.
While it goes without saying that any new additions or renovations to the overall structure are welcome, when done correctly, the thriller’s overall “game” lasts nearly as long as the movie’s running time.
And typically, the penultimate sequence results in a genre mandated round of 52 Pick-Up wherein the hero(ine) turns the tables on the villain and forces the house of cards to come crashing down in a violent confrontation during or after which the filmmakers reveal their true hand.
Although writer/director Antii J. Jokinen and co-scripter Robert Orr get the knock 'em sock 'em drag-out conclusion right in a fight for your life showdown that plays to the physical and emotional strength of the film's Oscar winning star turned executive producer Hilary Swank, everything else goes terribly wrong in the exploitative Resident.
Still nursing a broken heart after her longtime love Jack (The Fall’s Lee Pace) cheats on Juliet in her own bed, the dedicated doctor moves into a spacious apartment that’s been lovingly restored by her mysterious yet undeniably dishy landlord Max (Swank’s P.S. I Love You co-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
But despite the unsettling feeling that she’s being watched, Juliet makes the most out of her new home and relationship with Max, ignoring several red flags that range from cryptic warnings about the apartment’s spotty cell phone coverage to strange looks that pass between Max and his cantankerous grandfather August (Christopher Lee) in the process.
Unfortunately for viewers who’ve begun to grow intrigued by the B-movie’s benignly predictable yet promising beginning, any potential for a mysterious twist is quickly dashed when the film fast-forwards to what should’ve been a last act spoiler at the end of the first act.
By answering the questions of who, what, where, when, why and how after roughly thirty minutes of screen time, Jokinen and Orr fold their hand completely, without even attempting to keep us interested with sleight of hand, a misdirect, or the possibility of bluffing that there’s more to the now one-dimensional stalker tale than meets the eye.
Borrowing heavily from the playbook of Hitchcock’s Psycho wherein we’re forced to observe events from the point-of-view of the villain, The Resident soon evolves into an increasingly sickening portrait of an unhinged voyeur.
Overestimating our willingness to watch the (albeit mostly implied) sexual abuse of Swank’s unknowingly drugged doctor while simultaneously taking far too long for her seemingly intelligent character to put two and two together, although The Resident is augmented by taut performances, it’s a thoroughly unpleasant experience overall.
Not only disappointing from a narrative perspective but a feminist one considering the fact that Swank served as executive producer alongside the talented Renny Harlin who’s created many powerful female driven action pictures in the past, The Resident is an unsatisfying, sadistic and ultimately forgettable entry into the stalkerazzi thriller subgenre.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.