D: Henrik Ruben Genz / 90m
Cast: James Franco, Kate Hudson, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Spruell, Omar Sy, Anna Friel, Diarmaid Murtaugh, Michael Jibson, Oliver Dimsdale, Francis Magee
Tom Wright (Franco) and his wife Anna (Hudson) have moved from America to London to make a fresh start, and to renovate the house left to Tom by his grandmother. Where they’re living, they rent the basement to a man named Ben Tuttle (Magee). When they find Tuttle dead from an apparent overdose, the police investigation brings them into contact with DI Halden (Wilkinson). Although Tuttle had a criminal background, Halden is after bigger fish: Jack Witkowski (Spruell), a vicious gangster whom Tuttle had recently helped steal a consignment of liquid heroin from French drug dealer, Khan (Sy). Later on, while clearing the basement, Tom finds a hidden bag of money with over £300,000 in it. With bills mounting and his grandmother’s house costing more to put right than he’d expected, Tom suggests they keep the money hidden and when the time is right, begin to use it to settle their debts and get ahead.
Anna reluctantly agrees to Tom’s plan, but both use the money in small ways, and it comes to Halden’s attention. Tuttle’s whereabouts, meanwhile, have come to the attention of Witkowski, who has been looking for him since the theft of the liquid heroin. Tuttle had double-crossed him and taken both the money and the heroin, as well as contributing to the death of Witkowski’s younger brother. Witkowski visits the basement flat and finds the heroin but not the money.
Tom is then approached by Khan who is looking for revenge on Witkowksi and his drugs and money back. He impresses on Tom the importance of being a team player, leaving no doubt that he and Anna will suffer if they don’t help him. Things get worse when Witkowski returns to their home, attacks Tom and demands the money. Anna arrives home and bargains for their lives, stalling long enough until, by good fortune, Halden appears and Witkowski leaves. The Wrights come clean about the money, though Halden tells them they’re not out of the woods yet. He suggests setting a trap for Witkowski and they organise a rendezvous in a park to drop off the money. The trap goes wrong and Halden is shot, leaving Tom and Anna to negotiate another meeting… but this time at Tom’s grandmother’s house.
By most standards, Good People is – and let’s make this perfectly clear from the outset – a shockingly bad movie. It labours under the misapprehension that it’s a thriller and it’s almost entirely a case of what you see is what you get – there’s little or no depth here, and even less that’s credible or convincing. Based on the novel by Marcus Sakey, the movie stumbles and staggers its way from disjointed scene to disjointed scene with barely a moment to pause and consider where it’s going or how it’s going to get there. There are problems literally everywhere, from the police’s inability to trace any of Tuttle’s relatives (while Witkowski finds a cousin at the drop of a hat), to Halden’s vigilante-style approach to police work, to Tom’s attempts at action man heroics, to a number of undeveloped subplots, and the extended showdown at the end that seems to be de rigueur these days (and stretches the boundaries of human physical endurance).
Matters aren’t helped by muted performances from the two leads – unsurprising in Hudson’s case as she’s off screen more than she’s on – and Wilkinson overdoing the weary policeman routine to the point where it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he fell asleep during a scene and started snoring. And he delivers his lines with a kind of bored, indifferent approach that begs the question as to why he took on the role in the first place (surely he’s still not making mortgage payments?). Spruell exudes an icy menace (one of the few positives the movie manages to provide), while Sy comes across as less a disgruntled gangster and more like a petulant catalogue model made to wear a jacket with an ugly stain on it. And Friel, as Anna’s friend Sarah, has a priceless moment where, after being held hostage with her baby by Witkowski, escapes the house at the end and promptly runs off without a backward glance.
There really isn’t much to recommend about Good People. Kelly Masterson’s screenplay gives new meaning to the phrase “all over the place”, and is a major step down from his adaptation of Snowpiercer (2013), while in the director’s chair, newbie Genz displays a liking for odd camera angles that add little to the proceedings other than to leave the audience trying to work out what they’re looking at. The cinematography by Jørgen Johansson makes London look interminably grim and depressing, and there’s an unfortunate emphasis on subdued lighting that adds to the movie’s too-sombre look. There are also issues with the continuity within individual scenes that haven’t been addressed in the editing suite.
Rating: 3/10 – unappealing, contrived and as wearying to watch as Tom Wilkinson’s equally weary performance, Good People is dispiriting fare that never really knows what to do with its basic plot; one for Franco or Hudson completists only, or fans of pedestrian thrillers that leave out the thrills.