GOOD PEOPLE – Blu-ray review

In the new thriller “Good People,” James Franco and Kate Hudson are Tom and Anna Wright, a young American couple living in a London flat, trying to start a family while renovating a diseased-looking inherited house. In addition to fertility difficulties, they’ve got money troubles, too, and are on the verge of losing that house to foreclosure. When they find the body of their basement flat tenant dead from a drug overdose, and a bag containing loads of cash hidden in the ceiling, they decide to keep the money, despite the warnings of a suspicious veteran detective (Tom Wilkinson).

No graduate degree, GED, or junior high diploma required to figure out what happens next. Before dying, the fly-specked corpse double-crossed Witkowski (Sam Spruell), a bad, bad man who had previously stolen it from another bad, bad man, the courtly, ruthless French drug lord Khan (Omar Sy).  Guess who comes knock, knock, knockin’ at Tom and Anna’s front door?

With a glance in the direction of the far superior “Shallow Grave,” it would be unoriginal to say that this set-up is unoriginal. But I’m saying it anyway. “Good People” does manage to get a few things right – Sy and Spruell are nicely menacing, there’s a satisfying bluntness to the fight scenes, and the shameless improbability of the ‘Home Alone meets Saw’ climactic confrontation may beat you into submission despite your best, most reasonable instincts.

The film’s real ace is busy character actor and utility infielder Wilkinson, who proves again the value of effortless professionalism, especially when the surroundings are less than scenic. Like the guy who can play any base on the diamond, there doesn’t seem to be much he can’t cover, and he brings a satisfying level of gruff, worn commitment to even tired roles like this one.

When he’s not on screen, you want him back, if only because he serves as such a capable distraction from Franco and Hudson, less than convincing here. Hudson has been pigeon-holed into mostly light comedy and romance for a reason, and in several crucial moments, Anna demonstrates a toughness that is completely out of tune with Hudson’s slight, silly presence. That slightness is probably supposed to make her seem more threatened and vulnerable, but really just comes across as annoying.

Franco is his usual remote, marble-mouthed self, looking here like he’s biding his time while mentally searching for something better to do, like a performance art project or a new novel about a new performance art project.

Danish director Henrik Ruben Genz and writer Marcus Sakey don’t really have much to say about greed or guilt or house renovations, though they do provide a clear lesson on nail guns and their application to home defense. For a straight-forward plot, they have a tough time keeping the narrative moving along without resorting to some murky sleight of hand, like a critical park scene that descends into a chaotic shoot-out for reasons that are never clearly explained, providing only a convenient, shallow path into the third act. A stand-up veteran like Tom Wilkinson deserves better than this.

Video:
The Blu-ray of “Good People” is presented in 16×9 full frame, with a 1.77:1 aspect ratio. The disc has a dull, washed out look that is meant to be atmospheric, I think, but doesn’t really do much for the film. There options for English SDH and Spanish subtitles.

Audio:
The audio track is a comfortable Dolby TrueHD. That nail gun sounds great, but there’s not much anyone can do with Franco’s mushy-peas diction. There are no set-up options.

Extras:
a bog-standard making-of featurette

Parting thoughts:
Amusingly implausible at best, “Good People” suffers from some thoughtless plotting, and two central characters that elicit little in the way of sympathy or interest.

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