Monday, August 27, 2007


The verdict: Polished thriller with plenty of smarts that will certainly launch Shia LaBoeuf's career, and provide large audiences with above average multiplex fodder. It's not great though.

The rating: 6/10

Essentially a remake, or perhaps more accurately a 'modern updating' of Hitchcock's masterpiece Rear Window, 'Disturbia' tells the story of troubled teen Kale, played by Shia LaBoeuf. Wheile Jimmy Stewart's broken leg meant he was immobile during a New York City heatwave, Kale is made housebound for the summer with an electronic tag after he punches his Spanish teacher in the face.

The story is similar enough to Rear Window, in that during his forced retreat from the outside world, our protagonist takes to observing his neighbours, and becomes increasingly suspicious of a neighbour who may or may not be a murderer. However, this being a 'fresh' modern updating of the story, our protagonist here is a teen suburban subscriber to X-Box live and iTunes, who takes to watching his extremely hot neighbour Ashley (Sarah Roemer) taking afternoon swims when his subscriptions to said services are withdrawn by his mom.

The movie is better than your average teen schlock fare, with the first hour building nicely and providing a few genuinely tense moments. LaBoeuf is a very capable lead, and if I was the E! Channel, I'd be describing him as 'so hot right now', with 'Transformers' still doing great business for him, and 'Disturbia' already having hit the top spot in the U.S. He's even doing voices for kids' animated movies for chrissakes, and Steven Spielberg has seen fit to cast him alongside Harrison Ford in the next Indiana Jones.... so he's doing alright for himself!

The supporting cast are all likeable, with Aaron Yoo turning in a great performance as Kale's funny mate who, somewhat unfortunately for him, does all the donkey work for his house-bound buddy when the killer's house needs to be investigated. Sarah Roemer fills the screen marvellously well, and is very capable to boot, while Carrie-Anne Moss and David Morse provide more than adequate support as Kale's mom and the suspected slasher respectively. Morse in particular is nicely dark, and adds a sinister atmosphere to proceedings in each of his scenes, without hamming it up too much.

It's well written, and director D.J. Caruso certainly delivers a polished thriller with plenty of frights and tense moments. Unfortunately, in the third act of 'Disturbia', things take a far more macabre and chaotic turn than in hitchcock's movie, where the suggestion of dodgy goings-on was used as a means to create tension, and where we were never permitted entry into the prime suspect's residence. In this version, we are shown all the grisly details, and somehow the movie loses a lot of the tension it had built in the previous hour, where it just becomes a bit of a chase, derivative of 'Scream', and perhaps influenced by 'Saw'.

In terms of what to expect with this movie, think 'Final Destination'. When I saw that one first, I remember thinking, "hey, that isn't a bad idea.." Perhaps because I was surprised to see an idea so good in a film that I expected to be mediocre, I enjoyed that movie all the more. The thing is, the idea in 'Disturbia' isn't original - Hitchcock did it better about forty years ago. Also, the third act lets it down more than a little. It's thoroughly inoffensive, if a little predictable, but it's a lot better than some of the rubbish you'll see in the multiplexes this year.

In short, 'Disturbia' will provide some decent popcorn entertainment, but it certainly won't live long in the memory.

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