The only way to enjoy The Intruder, a mediocre domestic thriller with a plot that’s entirely predictable (and totally spelled out in the trailer) is to pretend it has more subtext than it does. Viewed in a certain way, for example, it could be seen as the story of how white, conservative, gun-loving Baby Boomers have screwed things up but refuse to step aside and let the younger, browner generation take over. The Boomer even wears a red hat!
On the surface, though — which I believe is the only level intended by writer David Loughery (Lakeview Terrace) or director Deon Taylor (Traffik, Meet the Blacks) — it’s just the story of San Francisco ad exec Scott Russell (Michael Ealy) and his wife, Annie (Meagan Good), buying a fabulous, century-old, $3.5-million house in Napa, way off the main road, isolated from everyone. The seller, gregarious but slightly simple-headed widow Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid), is moving to Florida to live with his daughter. But he can’t seem to let go of the house, which he’s lived in his entire life. Staying at a motel in town before the Florida move, he’s constantly showing up to mow the lawn and whatnot, seemingly forgetting that the place doesn’t belong to him anymore. He is appalled by every change the Russells make to the house and property. He becomes a stalker very quickly.
Scott thinks the guy is a nut; Annie, who has the worst instincts of any woman in a film this year, thinks he’s harmless. (The only way a woman, especially a woman of color, could miss the red flags in Charlie’s behavior is for her to be fictional and written by a man.) Friction develops between husband and wife on this issue, further complicated by Scott’s history of infidelity and current flirtations with ice cream parlor clerks. A few lines of dialogue halfheartedly draw a comparison between the “manly men” of Charlie’s generation and the progressive but effete men of today, but that theme is not developed. In all, the movie is nothing you haven’t seen before.
It has one bright spot, though: Dennis Quaid being a psycho. Not a lot, unfortunately, but enough to hint at how intimidating and fearsome he can be when he lets loose. The film shows us Charlie’s point of view frequently, but there’s only one moment where we actually get inside his head for a brief fantasy, and it’s spectacular. That jaw-dropping moment would lose its power if we visited Charlie’s thought process regularly, and maybe even get campy. But at least it would have been interesting! As it is, we have to make our own fun.