(director/writer: Joel Edgerton; cinematographer: Eduard Grau; editor: Luke Doolan; music: Danny Bensi; cast: Jason Bateman (Simon), Rebecca Hall (Robyn), Joel Edgerton (Gordo), Allison Tolman (Lucy), Busy Philipps (Duffy), Beau Knapp (Detective Walker), Wendell Pierce (Detective Mills), David Denman (Greg), Katie Aselton (Joan).; Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Rebecca Yeldham/Jason Blum; STX Entertainment; 2015)

“Slick psychological slow-burn comeuppance thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The directorial debut of Australian actor/writer Joel Edgerton. He helms, writes and stars in this slick psychological slow-burn comeuppance thriller. It seems smart until at its midpoint it turns astonishingly dumb when the dark past secrets of the main characters are revealed. Its solid acting and crafty directing get downgraded when it elaborately goes into its absurd revenge-plot machinations.

A young upward bound married couple, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall), pictured as an all-American ideal couple, who move from Chicago into a beautiful modern Hollywood Hills home and seem to be a couple others envy. Hubby is glad to be back in his LA hometown, and starts his new job as a sales exec at a computer security firm. He is up for a big promotion, and puts all his energy into getting it. Robyn is a free-lance interior designer, who desperately wants a baby after several miscarriages. We also learn she’s fragile, and takes too many prescription pills when challenged.

Accidentally Simon runs into a former high school classmate, Gordon (Joel Edgerton), and the clingy but polite Gordon gets a dinner invite even if not remembered by his host. Soon Simon recalls he was known in school by the nickname of “Gordo the weirdo.” At first, the socially awkward fidgety Gordon gets Robyn;s sympathy for being a lost soul. Though the military reject is seemingly not doing well financially, he still showers the couple with housewarming gifts (like fish for their koi pond). When Gordo keeps popping over uninvited, especially when hubby is not home, this gets Simon concerned and the weirdo looms menacing. A number of incidents occur that give the yuppies the chills, like the couple’s pet dog is missing and they are invited over to Gordo’s expensive house that turns out not to be his.

Things move on as we learn that Simon was a bully in high school and Gordo was one of his vics. Though we don’t realize it at first, it turns out that both individuals never changed their personalities from those school days. The story builds on tension, as we are led on to wonder how some twenty years later the two rival characters with a past handle themselves as confrontational adults.