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Released on DVD/Netflix: Oct 28, 2014
The premise seems ordinary. A young American couple transplants to London, England to engage in renovating the wife’s family home while living in a dump. She is an elementary school teacher and her husband is a contractor. Contrasted with the image of Omar Sy, a chiseled African god-like figure draped across the opening credits like a power lord of the new European world order. Omar Sy plays Khan, not one to be usurped with as established in the first scene. Khan is trying to stay one step ahead of Jack Witkowski, played by Sam Spruell, your typical flouride free broken tooth blymie from South London neighborhoods such as Southwark or Croydon. Jack Witkowski and his gang have stolen over 220,000 pounds of money and drugs from Khan in a strip joint no less. One of Jack’s men turn on him, shoots his partner in the face and takes off with the money. The staging is violent and there is little breathing room in this harrowing plot for the viewer. Ben Tuttrle plays Francis Magee, the one who stole the goods. He is even a more down and out aging Londoner with a drug problem.
He lives in the basement of Anna and Tom Wright, the young American couple. One day they find him dead and overripe with a most unpleasant odor. Tom notices one of the ceiling squares off kilter in Ben’s apartment. He finds stacks of rubber-banded money which he efficiently hides in his own domain. At first, he stashes it in the stove when a knock alarmingly comes on the door. It’s Tom Wilkinson, a police investigator named D.I. Halden, looking for Ben. After scrambling to hide the newly found money, a roll of it is squarely sticking out on the edge of the stove door which the couple hopes to keep concealed.
The Wrights already get an inkling that they may be in too deep but refuse to give up on the idea that their twist of luck is beyond their cautious dreams. Anna and Tom decided to be prudent and only pay necessary bills while hiding the rest. Tom pays off the mortgage that is overdue and Anna sneaks some money to visit a fertility clinic. While trying to maintain composure while diffusing the police investigator, their guilt sweeps through their minds while in bed late at night. Masterful plotting and dialogue takes place between D.I. Halden with the Chief of Police Ray Martin played by Oliver Dimsdale. Chief Martin doesn’t seem to want D.I. Halden to leverage any inside information on difficult high risk cases. Halden had a daughter die surrounding a controversial death and it has affected his performance. Chief Martin seems to have more to hide than what Halden is eager to expose by wanting to finally nail Jack Witkowski who has accumulated many unsolved crimes in London. One day, Tom Wright comes home and he is met by Jack Witkowski and his brother, Bobby. Witkowski shows no mercy and automatically assumes Tom Wright is in possession of the money that is missing. After all, he killed someone else in a bloody pool hall scene to just obtain the address. At this point of the movie, the unnecessary violence is threat level orange.
The director could have made less graphic choices to unravel the plot beyond brass knuckles and bruised faces. Psychological thrillers do not have to be executed with blood in each scene. It raises the intensity of the scenes but there is a blood barometer on how much an audience can take. (My standard limit is the torture scene with George Clooney in Syriana.) Needless to say, after Tom is beat up handily, Anna comes home and is doomed to be beaten if she doesn’t reveal the location of the money. She manages to trick Witkowski to thinking the treasure is hidden on the fifth step up from the basement then uses her stilletos to knock him a good one down the stairs. Just then, D.I. Holden comes in to save the day. The Wrights spend the night in the hotel and arrange a plan with the police to return the money. D.I. Holden wants to nail Witkowski who has an inside protector on the police force, namely Chief Martin. D.I. Holden knows he must handle this delivery carefully or his career is over. On the day of the delivery, the park is full of children and joggers. The Wrights are walking quickly with a tote bag to wait for their cue. They have let Khan know what is going down as divergent loyalists to him after he explained to Tom Wright that is technically his money. Khan masked his identity to hire Tom Wright for a contracting job but then came out with the truth once meeting him in person. The Wrights have a lot of debt collectors and their survival is sketchy. A police officer begins shooting but he is on Jack’s team and is only impersonating the law. D.I. Holden gets shot and the Wrights think he is dead. They run away with the tote after being chased by Khan and Witkowski’s people. They end up at the renovated house they are working on in the country. They hatch a plan with tools to collapse the floor and set up other booby traps. Witkowski and his men show up with Wright’s invitataion. He falls through the floor in a blade of pointed wooden spears. His brother gets his feet nailed to the floor through the lower floor power tool handled by Tom. The Witkowski’s have kidnapped Anna’s best friend and her baby who are the bargaining chip.
There are many bloody moments in the last scene as Tom gets stabbed by Jack before Jack plunges through the floorboards. They are saved again by D.I. Holden who had snuck out the hospital. The movie definitely has its moments of strength. Kate Hudson plays Anna Wright in a believable tone, trusting of her husband, wanting a family but caught in the matrix of bad circumstances. James Franco comes off as a loving husband with a few deceptive schemes to hide his lack of consistent employment from his wife. The plot and pacing are executed well. I thought there would be more to the story with the Khan character as the kingpin, maybe some international drug running undertones, but the action dominates the motives and the money gets recouped by law enforcement. With an all star cast that contains two Oscar nominees (Kate Hudson, winner; Almost Famous) and Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom), the performances can glorify the gaps of a rather predictable script. Grade B+