The Movie Waffler New Release Review - <i>Penthouse North</i> (DVD) | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Penthouse North (DVD)

A blind woman is terrorized in her apartment by the men her murdered boyfriend ripped off.

Directed by: Joseph Ruben
Starring: Michelle Monaghan, Michael Keaton, Barry Sloane, Andrew Walker

The Movie:

Photojournalist Sara (Monaghan) is injured and blinded by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, after which she has to rebuild her life. Flash-forward three years later and it is New Years Eve in New York, where she now has a boyfriend Ryan (Walker), who wants to take things further. With plans to entertain her pregnant sister Blake (Tilo Horn) and her husband Danny (Trevor Hayes), Sara leaves their elegantly well appointed penthouse apartment to purchase champagne for the festivities. On her return, Ryan has been murdered and there is a psychopathic killer, Chad (Sloane), in her apartment . Was Ryan the loving boyfriend he appeared to be or was he caught up in more nefarious activities? Who is Chad’s boss Hollander (Keaton), and why are they both convinced that Sara knows why Ryan ripped them off?
The blind woman trapped by a psycho is that hoariest of cliches, it is a route one lazy way to get maximum suspense and eerie claustrophobia out of a situation, as the unknowing female is leered at and objectified by her putative killer. Generic suspense it may be but in director Joseph Ruben and writer David Loughery you have two seasoned hands at this type of pot boiler guff. Between them they have been accountable for such by the numbers thrillers as Sleeping With The Enemy, The Good Son, Money Train and Lakeview Terrace. Ruben may have been responsible for the eighties Stepfather but he really hasn’t done anything as unabashedly entertaining since.
It may be all terribly mundane but you can’t fault the cast (Ruben has an uncanny knack for getting real actors, which invariably elevates weak material). Michelle Monaghan is always an appealing presence onscreen, able to be effortlessly appealing and likable in a way that is key to rooting for her as she tries to survive her ordeal. It also marks the welcome return of Michael Keaton to our screens. Always a sparky, energetic, comedic actor with just a hint of the deranged about him, on paper he should make a perfect bad guy. Unfortunately, rather than go with mad as a box of badgers scenery chewing vigour, Keaton instead plays it sly and restrained, which in a film this bland needs some spice to hold the interest. It looks like the Keaton comeback may have to wait until the Robocop reboot is released.
What Ruben and Loughery have created is a chamber piece, it’s like the cast of Polanski’s film version of Carnage have got out of hand and murderous. It is almost a one location psychological thriller that is stretched at even a trim 80 minutes. A subplot involving her sister is wholly unnecessary, it doesn’t ratchet up the tension particularly and then they are discarded when the story needs to end without any real purpose. A scene involving waterboarding, coupled with the prologue, hint at some statement regarding the war on terror that was dropped. In truth, if Sara had been born blind it would not dramatically affect the film. You know that a film isn’t working when you spend your time wondering why the world's most inept suicide bomber would hide in an abandoned building to lure two people to their doom rather than say an Army base? Or upon seeing the only black character in the film mentally time how long it will take before he meets his demise.
In the end it’s a murky thriller, with some pedestrian plotting. A story this slender really needs to be able to ratchet up the tension and deliver complex psychological character depth to truly grip. It is so uncertain in tone that it seems to imply a twist ending that it backs out of at the last minute. Less ambiguity, more the director just shrugging his shoulders and letting you sort it out. If you are in the mood for the kind of undemanding, by the numbers thriller that is the staple of the higher number satellite channels then you may find some enjoyment. Cat lovers may have a rather different reaction.
No extras available

Jason Abbey