‘The Good Neighbor’ (2022) Review: A Predictable Thriller Downplays the Suspense
“Don’t let this ruin us.”
When a growing friendship turns dangerous and obsessive, things will certainly get out of hand, and that means going to incredible lengths to cover up a murder. Stephan Rick’s The Good Neighbor might answer the question, but it has trouble reinventing the genre. This is Rick’s second English-language film and a remake of 2011’s German film Unter Nachbarn. The movie features Luke Kleintank and Jonathan Rhys Meyers who play neighbours, who share a horrible experience and it becomes increasingly unstable for them to maintain their newfound friendship.
After a horrible break-up, David (Kleintank) accepts a new job at the European Press Network in Latvia and settles in a house hours away from the town. As David tries to adjust to the new location, he befriends a neighbour Robert (Rhys Meyers), who helps get his car started, and they click instantly. To repay Robert for fixing his car, he invites him out for a drink and the duo ends up in a club. David meets a British cyclist Jeanine (Ieva Florence) and they share an instant connection. As the neighbours head home, David hits someone with his car and he finds out that it is Jeanine, the woman he met at the club. Robert assesses the situation and convinces David that she is dead and they must flee the scene of the crime. The next morning, the authorities begin an investigation to find the murderer, and Robert, who shows no signs of remorse, becomes obsessive and possessive of David. He has a hard time dealing with this situation and finds comfort with Jeanine’s sister Vanessa (Eloise Smyth), desperate to find answers. As their relationship blossoms, Robert’s jealousy kicks in and he does unspeakable things to make sure their secret is kept safe, even if it means he has to kill someone.
For the most part, The Good Neighbor is predictable and knows where things might end for David and Robert. The movie has trouble holding the viewer’s attention and the narrative seems overdone in the genre. The violence is mostly off-screen and this doesn’t help to heighten the tension. It seems as though Rick doesn’t want to build the tension in the remake. But for those who haven’t seen the original movie, it would have been better to include more suspense and violence, instead of the slow-burning story that focuses more on the characteristics.
An issue with the movie is that the viewer knows nothing about Robert, apart from his difficult childhood, where he was left alone for days on end while his mother worked. He has nothing else to do, except to do rounds on his patients and keep a close eye on David to make sure he isn’t straying away from his grasp. At the end of the movie, the truth of Robert’s motive is revealed, and it is quite disappointing. Rhys Meyers’ performance is a mixed bag, too. His portrayal of the crazed and erratic bestie is quite over the top at times and doesn’t make a memorable villain. Even though Robert’s villainy seems cartoonish at times, Rhys Meyers does better when his character is isolated alone.
The Good Neighbor does seem to have a few issues in the details of the narratives, especially regarding the big twists and moments which sometimes don’t make a lot of sense. In one scene, while David and Vanessa are kayaking to commemorate an activity with her sister Jeanine, Robert shows off and tries to intimidate her. Vanessa rows away and her kayak turns upside down, and Robert watches her as she almost drowns. Although the intention is to show Robert’s jealousy, it doesn’t lead to anything substantial. In another instance, when the detectives ask questions to David, Vanessa begins to suspect his involvement and connects the dots before the police. These types of nuances in the narratives seem to be an ingenious way of presenting the story, but rather it’s a sloppy attempt to reveal the twists.
Overall, The Good Neighbor has some enjoyable moments if the viewers look past the flaws. The violence and suspense seem downplayed and sanitised to prevent from being letdown or feeling repetitive. It’s a well-acted (at times) movie with performances that are varied in substance. Rick doesn’t try to reinvent the genre with new narratives, but uses the same plot and gimmicks to tell a story, which seems all too familiar.
Edited by: Raayaa Imthiyaz