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Two Thrillers from Alliance

The Resident (April 24/11)

It's certainly not difficult to see why The Resident is premiering on home video in North America, as the movie ultimately comes off as a low-rent, hopelessly by-the-numbers thriller that is way, way beneath the talents of its Oscar winning star. The film follows Hilary Swank's Juliet Devereau as she moves into a spacious Brooklyn loft and quickly finds herself the target of a mysterious stalker, with the narrative offering up three suspects: Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Juliet's friendly, bearded landlord; August (Christopher Lee), Max's creepy grandfather; and Jack (Lee Pace), Juliet's persistent ex-boyfriend. Director Antti Jokinen, working from a script cowritten with Robert Orr, initially does a nice job of establishing and perpetuating the movie's ominous atmosphere, as the filmmaker peppers the proceedings with a number of appropriately sinister touches (eg what's that weird look between Max and August?) The mysterious vibe persists right up until the half hour mark, at which point Jokinen literally rewinds the movie and shows the viewer exactly what the villain has been up to. It's a fascinating sequence that ultimately stands as the high point of The Resident, as the film subsequently segues into a fairly (and disappointingly) standard woman-and-her-stalker-type thriller - although, to be fair, Jokinen offers up a handful of twists that, when coupled with Swank's expectedly strong performance, prove effective at sustaining the viewer's interest through the movie's weaker stretches. There's little doubt, however, that the film's tenuously engaging atmosphere reaches its breaking point with the laughably conventional cat-and-mouse finale, with the eye-rolling silliness of this portion - eg the villain suddenly pops up after he's seemingly been killed - ensuring that The Resident concludes on as underwhelming a note as one could possibly envision. The end result is an uneven yet watchable bit of trashy filmmaking, with Swank's mere presence here nothing less than an epic head-scratcher.

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Sacrifice (April 25/11)

Sacrifice casts Cuba Gooding Jr as John Hebron, a grizzled cop who's been drinking heavily and contemplating suicide ever since his wife and daughter were murdered by a vicious mobster. John receives a shot at redemption after he reluctantly agrees to take care of a little girl, with the film subsequently following John's ongoing efforts at protecting the kid and, eventually, bringing her criminal father (Kim Coates' Arment) to justice. It's clear immediately that Sacrifice isn't going to change Gooding Jr's luck within the pervasively underwhelming straight-to-video arena, as the movie's almost astonishing lack of positive attributes ensures that the viewer is simply unable to work up any enthusiasm or interest in the central character's plight - with this feeling compounded by the laughably hackneyed brush with which the protagonist has been painted (eg John practically comes off as a parody of this type of figure). Director Damian Lee - who also wrote the movie - has infused the proceedings with a disastrously sluggish pace that serves only to highlight its various problems, while Gooding Jr and his various costars are simply unable to breathe any life into their uniformly one-dimensional characters. (Christian Slater, cast as a sympathetic priest, stands as the one bright spot within the film, as the actor delivers a surprisingly compelling performance that's far too limited in screentime to make any real difference.) And although Lee offers up a climactic shootout within a church that's relatively well done, Sacrifice has long-since established itself as just another bottom-of-the-barrel DTV effort that brings Gooding Jr one step closer to total irrelevance.

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