HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Gift
HTS Overall Score:78
Joel Edgerton has been making waves recently for his acting skills, but more and more actors are trying their hands behind the director’s chair as well. Despite having a ton on his plate at the moment, Edgerton takes a shot at a near defunct “genre”, the non DTV budget thriller. Taking cues from “The Hand that Rocked the Cradle” and just about any Michael Douglass thriller from the 90s, Joel and crew cast a well done film about a rather hot topic, albeit in a very subtle way. The movie was only about $5 million to make, but somehow managed to net over $60 million worldwide, a feat that is certain to have studio heads taking heed at low risk, high gain structure of the thriller. There’s no wild special effects, and most of the movie takes place in only 2-3 different locations, but that allows for an almost claustrophobic feel to the nearly 2 hour slow burner.
Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) have just moved from Chicago to sunny California after a sudden job change, leading them into the good old L.A. While everything seems fine on the surface, we soon find out that Robyn and Simon are recovering from a tragic miscarriage, and Robyn is still battling an addiction to pills. While Simon is busy climbing the corporate white collar ladder, a blast from the past crosses his path that may upset their already fragile relocation. Right off the plane, the couple runs into Gordon, E.g. “Gordo”, an old classmate of Simon’s. After the seemingly innocent exchange of pleasantries, the couple moves into their new house (or really mansion I should say), only to come face to face with Gordo once more. He’s a seemingly innocent and naïve guy, but one who extends a welcoming hand to the new couple. While Robyn isn’t perturbed by Gordo showing up unannounced, Simon is less than pleased, and more than a bit uncomfortable.
After his gifts start to escalate and their nervousness increases, Simon and Robyn have to cut ties with the overzealous man, only to find out that severing those ties may be a bit harder than one would expect. Right about now we’d start seeing the classic tropes come into play, Gordo escalates his attack on the unwitting couple until Simon or Robyn is forced to confront him in some sort of physical struggler where he would defeated once and for all. However, it’s only the 1 hour mark and there’s still nearly an hour left, and here is where Edgerton twists the movie around. While Gordo is no hero, in fact he’s about as twisted as they come, we find out just WHY he is what he is. While Gordo has been seemingly taken care of, Robyn is still suspicious that Simon is hiding something from her. Things just don’t add up and the more she digs into her husband’s past, the more and more she uncovers until the man she married and is having a child with bears no resemblance to who she though he was.
“The Gift” isn’t a wildly brilliant film, but it does do a good job at taking the familiar tropes and scenarios that so many 90s low budget thrillers capitalized on and adapted it for a more modern audience. In reality, the best way to describe the film is that it is a classic 90s thriller that is an anti-bullying movie. Gordo and Simon and Robyn all fit the classic stereotypes, but the mid movie twist actually had me on the edge of my seat wondering HOW the movie would end. The biggest boon that Edgerton gave “The Gift” was its air of ambiguity. The whole film seems slightly off kilter, never really letting you get comfortable with any of the characters before shifting gears and throwing them under the bus and expose their dirty little secrets. Edgerton’s Gordo is creepy and unnerving, slightly sweet and innocent, but dangerous when crossed. However Robyn has her own demons, ones that may cause more harm to their marriage than she’s willing to admit. The same goes for Simon, who can technically be viewed as the co-villain to film past the mid-way mark.
Jason Bateman has always had a fairly wide range, but “The Gift” stretches him in ways I haven’t seen out of the actor before. The first part of the movie has him playing his normal slightly stodgy and uptight self, but it’s the second half where we see the inner demons he’s been hiding that will disturb the audience. Edgerton is fantastic as the unnerving Gordo, but sometimes I felt he plaid the character just a bit too soft. Whether that is something in the writing, or a curse of directing oneself, I don’t know. Supporting characters are used judiciously, and while they are important, the only 3 characters that REALLY get any show time is Robyn, Simon and Gordo.
Rated R for language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=58001[/img]“The Gift” comes with a rather strange looking transfer that has both elements of really good, but also not so pleasing results with it. The detail is really crisp, as the film is glossy and digital smooth, but there were some murky looking blacks and some contrast boosting that seemed to keep some of the detail from being as resolved as it could have been. There is also some inherent softness to the image that combined with the murky blacks and boosted contrast to form a slightly flat image. Colors are usually good, but mildly desaturated, and the tendency to lean towards a light blue/grey palette. For the most par the film looks rather nice, but it just could be a TAAAAAAAAD bit sharper in my personal opinion, although there are some great looking scenes. The one that stood out was Robyn laying in her hospital bed while Gordon slowly snuck up beside her. Crystal clear with incredible sharpness.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=58009[/img]The audio track is a stunner, though. Only sporting a single 5.1 DTS-HD MA track, “The Gift” subtly changes from a mild mannered drama to a flat out thriller at the drop of a hat. The crunching of glass and the screeching of tires shifts across the sound stage, and the ominous score keeps the downbeats coming heavier and heavier as Gordon and Simon do their mental battle of chess against each other. The rock coming through the window just before Robyn’s pregnancy truly startled me as I could know it was coming from just over my back shoulder! The dynamic range is actually pretty wide, allowing from some nice quiet conversations and then those conversations being startled as some explosive happens on screen.
• Alternate Endings
• Deleted Scenes
• Karma For Bullies
• The Darker Side of Jason Bateman
• Director's Commentary
Despite the thriller trappings, “The Gift” is basically an anti-bullying movie at heart. We have the setup, the twist half way through the movie and suddenly Simon has got a few skeletons in his closet that makes Gordon seem a little less the true villain. Bullying has become a BIG issue amongst people today, with many people citing that it is one of the most important issues of our time (whether that is true or not). The usage of the thriller concept turned on its ear was a nice little cinematic twist that certainly had me guessing just HOW the movie was going to end (especially since the standard tropes had been made null and void thanks to the mid movie twist). Audio is fantastic and while the video is good, it’s not quite AS good as I would have hoped for a new movie. Toss in some solid extras and “The Gift” makes for a surprisingly fun rental.
Starring: Jason Bateman, Joel Edgerton, Rebecca Hall
Directed by: Joel Edgerton
Written by: Joel Edgerton
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 108 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 27th, 2015
Buy The Gift Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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