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Front Page - Friday, May 17, 2019

‘The Intruder’ pushes its way onto list of movies to skip

It’s about time Dennis Quaid played a psycho killer in a movie. The man’s face was made for it.

His smile has always looked unhinged, with his Joker’s lips and protruding cheekbones suggesting there’s something broken beneath his skin.

I like his eyes, too. Even when he’s fully deployed his legendary grin, they seem to twinkle with madness. When his character is angry, they peer ominously from deep within the folds of his wrinkles.

Plus, Quaid is one of those rare actors whose charisma matches his acting chops and who’s virtually always fun to watch.

It’s unfortunate, then, that the film in which we finally get to see Quaid unleash his inner madman is the aggressively bad “The Intruder.”

Quaid plays Charlie, owner of a beautiful Napa Valley home. As he tells Scott and Annie Russell, a young San Francisco couple looking to escape the city, he’s simply a widower and an empty-nester who needs to move on.

Scott and Annie buy Charlie’s story and his house, ready to begin their country living adventure. There’s just one problem: Charlie won’t leave.

He seems to, at first. He turns the keys over to the Russells and then drives off, ostensibly to move to Florida to be with his children. But then Annie looks out her kitchen window one day while Scott is at work and sees Charlie mowing the grass.

It’s a great moment that promises fun the movie never delivers. Instead, as Charlie’s behavior goes from quirky to hostile, the movie’s skin peels back to reveal a pile of shattered bones.

As I watched “The Intruder” and scribbled in the dark, I realized I possessed an embarrassment of riches.

“Charlie said his family built the house in 1905. Later, he gives Annie the names of the builders, in case she needs repairs done. Who’s math is off? Charlie’s or the screenwriter’s?” read one note.

“Why doesn’t Scott tell Charlie to stay off his property?” I wrote more than an hour into the movie. Charlie had made several surprise appearances by that time, each more intrusive than the last, but Scott hadn’t told him to leave.

In one inexplicable scene in which Scott catches Charlie outside a shed with a gun, he doesn’t tell his unwanted guest to stay off his property, he screams, “No guns on my land, Charlie!”

Yeah, that’s what I would have said.

“Women are going to hate this movie,” reads another note. I realized late in the film that screenwriter David Loughery had done Annie a disservice by making her a clueless, helpless victim who must rely on her far more observant husband to save her.

I don’t believe every woman in every thriller needs to be a super empowered feminist who kicks the bad guy’s butt. But I don’t think any character – male or female – should be written as dumb as Loughery wrote Annie.

To propel the action forward and bring Annie to a point where she’s in mortal danger, she fails to notice a surplus of blinking red neon signs.

When a man you already know has issues shows up with pizza and a crooked smile the night your husband is hospitalized after being injured in a hit-and-run accident, you don’t let him in and open a bottle of wine. “How did Charlie know Scott is in the hospital?” I wrote. “Women are going to HATE this movie!”

Annie is not Loughery’s only victim. With the exception of Charlie, who gets a pass because he’s not mentally well, no one behaves logically. The last shot of the film alone is a betrayal of the kind of people Loughery has shown Scott and Annie to be.

It’s as though all he and director Deon Taylor care about is pulling Pavlovian responses out of undiscerning moviegoers.

I filled several pages with notes. “Clumsy editing,” “Awkward voiceovers,” “Ridiculous camera angles,” “Another stupid jump scare,” and on and on until I wrote “What a mess” on the last page.

Quaid fans will derive some pleasure from his presence in the film, although there’s a moment when even he made me look away from the screen in disgust. If you see “The Intruder,” you’ll know the scene.

If there’s anything more disappointing than a bad film, it’s a bad film that wastes a good opportunity. But maybe someone out there will see “The Intruder” and decide Quaid deserves another shot at playing a psycho killer. After all, his face was made for it.