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Gift, The


Stars: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, Allison Tolman, Busy Philipps, Beau Knapp, Wendell Pierce, David Denman, Katie Aselton

Director: Joel Edgerton

Australian actor Joel Edgerton scores on both sides of the camera as writer, producer, star and first-time director with his cunning riff on a the sinister-stalker scare-film, a genre that is becoming rather too tired these days because of its overuse.

Life is just fine for Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall. The young marrieds have just moved from Chicago to Los Angeles and found the perfect house – albeit one that turns out to have perhaps a tad too many vista-perfect windows.

Then Edgerton turns up to catalyse their lives. “I’m sorry to bother you”, he tells Bateman in the bank, “I think I know you”. “Seemed like a nice guy,” opines Bateman (“He’s odd”, opines his wife) and the couple have a new ‘friend’, one who leaves a bottle of wine on their doorstep as a welcome gift.

Before long, Virgil’s old adage, “Beware Greeks beating gifts”, turns out to be all too true. While Edgerton may not be Greek, more uncalled-for gifts and uninvited encounters poisons the couple’s lives with mounting fear. And it turns out that Bateman and he first met each other 20 years ago at school when Edgerton was known as “Gordo the Weird”.

Edgerton, as actor and director, racks up strong suspense as the story progresses and elicits potent performances, too, from well-cast Bateman and Hall – and then scores even more strongly with an unexpected twist that is genuinely surprising…

While there are no boiled bunnies on screen, Edgerton smartly scalds your nerves time and again as he puts the audience – and his characters – through the emotional wringer.

(Unlike, say, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. The Gift has the advantage of a strong story and doesn’t need therefore to rely stars, stunts and serial silliness to strike the target).

Alan Frank

USA 2015. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Colour.
108 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 06 Aug 2015