**** (out of 5)
April 13, 2007
Shia LaBeouf as KALE
Sarah Roemer as ASHLEY
Carrie-Anne Moss as JULIE
David Morse as MR. TURNER
Aaron Yoo as RONNIE
Directed by: D.J. Caruso
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Several years ago, I went into Shia LaBeouf overload. After a successful stint on Disney Channel’s “Even Stevens,” he was discovered by the mainstream industry, leaving his on-screen sister to do the voice of Kim Possible and make direct-to-DVD movies like “The Cutting Edge 2” while he went after the Hollywood blockbusters.
In the early 2000s, LaBeouf was seen in everything from “Charlie’s Angels 2” to “I, Robot.” He went on hiatus for a little bit, but now we’re seeing him again (and hearing him again in this summer’s “Surf’s Up”). In some movies, like “Bobby,” we see just a bit too much of him – Shia LaBeouf in the buff.
While I’ve never been a fan of the kid outside of “Even Stevens,” it seems like he’s finally coming into his own. His latest film “Disturbia” shows that he might actually make the transition from child star to mainstream Hollywood.
Making an overt nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” “Disturbia” tells the story of a teenager name Kale (LaBeouf) who is sentenced to house arrest during the summer. Bored out of his mind, he takes to voyeurism with the neighbors. Things look up when the young hottie (Sarah Roemer) who just moved in next door comes over to make friends. However, things take a grisly turn when, while spying on his next door neighbor (David Morse), he sees evidence that the guy might be a serial killer.
It’s impossible to do an homage to Hitchcock without stepping in the bear trap of imitating the master. And director D.J. Caruso is going to face these accusations throughout the release of “Disturbia.” I feel he gave us a Hitchcockian film without settling for a cheap imitation, something that big name directors like Brian DePalma and Robert Zemeckis failed to do.
Too many thrillers go too far too quickly these days. I’ve seen too many films this year already that splatter the screen with freaky and violent imagery from the opening credits. Caruso resists this temptation with “Disturbia.” In fact, he pulls away from it so much that he achieves a fine level of modern suspense.
Instead of jumping into a serial killer story from the start, “Disturbia” takes its time to breathe. About a third of the way through the film, I almost forgot that I was watching a thriller. The movie doesn’t drag or become uninteresting, but rather shows the life of Kale before the suspense really starts.
David Morse makes a great villain. He’s played the heavy before, and he’s one of those rare actors that can sell me on both the good guy and the bad guy. I wish there was more of him in the movie. However, keeping with the “Rear Window” tradition, his screen time is somewhat scarce. Like Raymond Burr in the Hitchcock classic, we see most of Morse from afar. When we do get to see him act up close, it’s not enough for what he’s worth as an actor.
I also think it’s worth saying that it’s nice to see Carrie-Anne Moss back in mainstream film. After slumming it in the indies during “The Matrix” years, her career does not seem to have died with the character of Trinity. Moss has great screen presence, and she does the best with her role in “Disturbia.” Sadly, like David Morse, she’s not given something that really shows off her best acting.
I took the bait with this movie. Sure, the story falters at times. There are some moments where the red herrings are forced, and the plot twists are a bit corny. But as an homage to old-fashioned suspense films, you could do a lot worse.