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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Aug 27, 2015

The Gift Movie Review: A Thriller That Fails To Thrill

AUSTRALIAN ACTOR Joel Edgerton (“Warriors”, “Exodus, Gods and Kings”) writes and helms his first Hollywood flick in “The Gift”, in which he’s also a co-star. It’s supposed to be a thriller but honestly, we were not thrilled at all while watching it.

Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) move from Chicago to California for Simon’s new job. While they’re in a store, they are approached by Gordo (Edgerton) who says he and Simon are high school classmates. Simon tells his wife that Gordo has always been weird so he’s called Weirdo Gordo. Soon, Gordo seems to be stalking them, bring them various gifts, including fish for their pond. Robyn is recovering from a miscarriage and she accommodates Gordo’s intrusion into their home, even asking him to join her and Simon for dinner.

Simon is not pleased and eventually tells Gordo to back off and not see them again. Gordo is obviously pissed and writes a letter to Simon saying he is willing to “let bygones be bygones”. Soon, the fish in their pond are dead and their pet dog is missing. Horror movie treatment ensues. Is Gordo an obsessed wacko ala-”Fatal Attraction” who wants to harm the couple? Is Robyn just imagining things as she seems to have some psychological problems herself?

Soon, Robyn gets pregnant again and she starts asking questions about the past relationship of Gordo with her husband when they were still teenagers. What she discovers about them is very disconcerting. We don’t want to get into the details as this will be a spoiler. Suffice it to say that the way the movie is resolved is not at all satisfying for us. There are scenes that just strain believability and the finale just undoes any good that precedes it.

The movie banks on the premise that viewers will be surprised upon realizing that the things they thought about the characters are not what they seem. This is not exactly new in the world of cinema where red herrings are thrown to distract viewers, then some shocking secret about a character’s identity is revealed later. The film does have some jolting boo moments but, all in all, it’s a letdown. The revelation in the ending is plain ho-hum for us. It’s up to you to decide who is the victim and who is the real villain in the story.

There’s one scene that is just so not credible: a much punier looking Jason Bateman beating up a bigger more muscular Joel Edgerton, who was a prized boxer in “Warrior”. This is plain B.S. for us, just like the scene where a man Jason maligns in their office, so he can be promoted up the corporate ladder, would suddenly materialize and wreak havoc in their home.

We don’t want to say anything anymore. We don’t know if you yourself would enjoy the movie when you watch it. Suffice it to say that Edgerton is no Hitchcock. Not even Brian de Palma. Deliberately slow paced to make it all a slow burn, the movie doesn’t get to boiling point at all. It all boils down to bullying and how the past can catch up with bullies. In the final analysis, Edgerton as a filmmaker simply fails to bully us into buying his movie.