Not to be confused with other films about problematic neighbourhoods; also, there will be spoilers.
John (Josh Stewart) and his wife Rosie (Alex Essoe) work for John’s uncle
Neil (Skipp Sudduth) as drug trafficking middlemen. They’ve put enough money
aside to retire from their life of crime and move somewhere nicer far, far,
away, hoping Neil won’t hunt them down and murder them. They didn’t steal from
the man, mind you.
Unfortunately, the couple will have rather more trouble at their hands than
an easily ticked-off Midwestern country drug lord. While John is making his
final delivery to Neil, Rosie witnesses their neighbour Troy (Bill Engvall)
murdering a young man. When John returns, Rosie is gone, supposedly run off, as
Troy suggests to him. Only, if Rosie had wanted to leave John the day when they
were splitting anyway, she probably would have taken the bag full of money in
their house too, or at least some of it. So John knows Troy is lying,
particularly since their last encounter the night before had already suggested
something to be very wrong with the guy. Yes, wrong even from the perspective of
someone in the drug trade.
Consequently John stealthily breaks into the house of Troy and his two sons (Ronnie Gene Blevins
and Luke Edwards) to find Rosie, learning quite a bit more about their family
business than he wanted to in the process, starting a night from hell for
I didn’t quite expect director Marcus Dunstan to follow up his silly yet
wonderful The Collection with a clever little thriller making some
caustic subtextual remarks about the American Dream™ like The Neighbor
but I’m certainly not complaining.
This is the sort of relatively small-scale production that does basically
everything right: the acting is fine throughout, the script effective and the direction is tight and
focused, quickly introducing us to what’s what with the characters and then
never stopping escalating their situation from there. There’s a sharpness (plus
a whole lot of Kurtzman-created blood) to the proceedings even though The
Neighbor does have something of an happy end, however ironic the film
presents it. But then, one of the main points of the film is to show America (or
at least the part of America it concerns itself with) as a place where it’s
impossible not have blood on one’s hands.
Which doesn’t mean we’re not supposed to like John and Rosie; they are, after
all, the only characters on screen who actually do something for others beyond
taking care of their own survival, while their guilt for other people’s
suffering through drugs and what comes with them is twice removed, them being
middlemen (middlepersons?), after all.
If you’re really looking for something to complain here, it’s probably the
basic set-up that’ll make you (un)happy there. It is a bit difficult to swallow
that these particular people should end up to be neighbours but starting off
from an improbable place as The Neighbor does is certainly a typical
thriller move – Hitchcock certainly did it more often than not. And if I can
suspend my disbelief for ghosts and zombies, I certainly can do the same when it
comes to difficult neighbours.
Otherwise, The Neighbor is as fine a contemporary low budget
thriller as you’re likely to find.