Intrusion. M, 92 minutes. Two stars.
Quentin Tarantino named his 1994 film Pulp Fiction for the dime-store paperback novels and magazines of the last century that featured slick alluring covers of dangerous dames and bad guys, and inside the covers championed lurid if predictable writing. They were comfort reading, written and priced for the working class.
I would have to put the new Netflix thriller Intrusion in the pulp fiction category. Not the film. Heavens no. Notice I didn't capitalise those words. I mean in the low-budget workmanlike entertainment, produced for cheap disposable entertainment.
Intrusion stars Freida Pinto and Logan Marshall-Green as a wealthy husband and wife. He plays Henry, an architect who has built the couple their dream house in the desert outside of some large New Mexico city. She is Meera, a psychologist recently in remission from cancer and rebuilding her life and finding her place back in the world.
Henry's dream home is a gorgeous vision in glass and concrete and an ideal place for this couple to make the most of the gift they've been given with Meena's remission.
But it is somewhat remote.
Meena begins to feel nervous when they experience a burglary, and isn't that reassured when Henry installs new locks and security cameras. But when the burglars return a second time, she discovers that Henry also has a gun hidden on their property, which he uses to kill one intruder and critically injure another.
It's all obviously upsetting, particularly wondering why these men were so interested in them and their property when there is no apparent link between them. But when Meena discovers a photo of one of the men on her husband's laptop, the man wearing construction gear and working on the build of their house, her suspicions become aroused.
Probably the best thing about this predictable but still absolutely watchable film is the house. We've all been indulging in real estate porn online in lockdown and this gorgeous glass monstrosity of a dream home is delightful clean lines and empty bench tops. Not a dog bed or partner hogging the dining room table with their dual screen Zoom work-from-home set-up. Real estate porn indeed.
The real house is in the hills outside of Alberquerque, while the interior for the film is a confection of the real house and the work of production designers Brandon Tonner-Connolly and Matt Hyland.
The house has a U shape that allows for one of my favourite chills in horror or thriller movies, which is when a character is in their own home but can see the bad guy in another part of their home. Coupled with some nice crashing violin or other strings, perhaps a drum beat.
Do they run outside to safety, or do they head towards the intruder and defend their home? Scary!
But like the dreamy architectural home it is filmed in, this film is a little bit empty.
Lots of clean lines and surfaces, not a lot of the unexpected. Not a lot of substance.
Predictable, and not just to a film critic who has seen a few dozen films with the same plot.
I in fact said aloud in the film's first minute, to my dog, a guess about the plot, the bad guy and the ending, and I nailed all three.
As the leads, Pinto and Marshall-Green are as gorgeous as that house. I won't do them the disservice of saying their performances are also empty, but their characters are written so vaguely that it's hard to understand what drives them, until we're hit over the head with it later in the film.
Pinto is the object of Dev Patel's chai wallah in Slumdog Millionaire and she's enjoyed quite a varied career since in international productions.
Both she and Marshall-Green deserve better, though with this film sitting around the top of the Netflix "most viewed" lists this week they've probably had more eyeballs on them than for a handful of their recent film and TV titles combined.
Director Adam Salky takes a bread-and-butter approach to the material. Like the screenplay from Chris Sparling, it's an uninspired and workmanlike job. A kit home.