The Resident (2011) is a Hammer Films release. The legendary film company was resurrected a few years back. Despite starring Academy Award winner Hilary Swank, The Resident went directly to video in North America. Aside from a disappointing performance by Swank, the film shows signs of being unpolished. The score by John Ottman sounds like something we’ve heard in a bunch of other movies. The sound effects are taken straight from the stock archives. But despite all this (and more), The Resident isn’t entirely awful.
Juliet (Hilary Swank) is a depth-less character. She’s an ER doctor who lives all by herself in Brooklyn, New York. She goes for morning jogs, drinks wine, takes long baths. When it comes to matters of the heart, she behaves like a 17 year old. Her previous boyfriend, Jack, slept with another woman. Juliet decides to shake things up in her life and she believes that moving into a new apartment will do the trick.
The new apartment she moves into is actually an old apartment. It’s extremely spacious, right in the heart of the city, and it’s unbelievably affordable. Juliet asks Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the building’s owner, the dreaded question, ”So what’s the catch?” There is no catch. If by catch you mean ghosts, bleeding walls, and massacred previous occupants.
The catch is that Max, the tall, dark and handsome landlord had a bizarre childhood. He also lives with his creepy and cruel grandfather August (played by the great Christopher Lee). Juliet makes a move on Max – She tries to kiss him, but he shies away. Next thing you know, she gets him into her apartment to have sex. She then rejects him. Then…
Then it’s rewind time. The film goes into hyper-speed flashback mode to reveal that Max is a perverse stalker and intruder. I found this to be a refreshing narrative turn. There are too many movies out now that rely on red-herrings. The Resident tells us before the halfway point who the antagonist is. Moreover, Max doesn’t look like a villain. He’s good-looking, in shape, and has a great smile. He doesn’t raise his voice or lose his temper – he’s quite sensitive. Externally, there is nothing odd about him.
As the story goes on, Max engages in voyeuristic behaviors and acts out on erotic fetishism. He’s a sexual deviant. The character of Juliet, on the other hand, stays the same. When she’s done teasing Max and playing with his feelings, she reconciles with the two-timing Jack. Juliet’s the kind of gal who gives all the wrong signals and leads men on. Don’t you hate it when women do that?
The writing betrays this film, especially concerning Juliet’s character. Her lines are embarrassing. Her actions are laughable. During the final act, Max chases Juliet inside the building. With Max right behind her, Juliet takes the time to do some investigating. She sees something in a wall, bends down, takes it out and looks through it. It’s one of Max’s peepholes. Juliet says to herself, “Jesus Christ…” then gets up and continues running. All this, with a madman three steps behind her. Much of Juliet’s logic is lacking as well. After she’s been late to work a few times due to sleeping in she says, “there’s something creepy about my apartment.” She blames her getting up late on her apartment (huh?).
The Resident is a generic thriller that could’ve benefited from some post-production polishing. Simple shots of Juliet at the computer look awkward. Shots of her cellphone’s display look amateurish. I endured this film thanks to the character of Max. Jeffrey Dean Morgan does a great job in his role of a deeply disturbed man who doesn’t look deeply disturbed. Concerning Hilary Swank, I’ve never been a fan of hers. As for the story revealing who the ‘bad guy’ is early on, I’m okay with that. I’m tired of gimmick movies that rely on guessing games. At least this film doesn’t toy around with the viewer as much as Juliet toys around with men.