Moving is rough, moving to a new country is even rougher, something I know from experience. And that’s the situation David (Luke Kleintank, Crown Vic, The Man in the High Castle) finds himself in at the start of The Good Neighbor. He’s an American journalist who has moved to Latvia for a fresh start after some issues in his personal life.
Things seem to be going well for him. A former colleague Grant (Bruce Davison, Captors, Along Came the Devil 2) can get him a job and he makes friends with Robert (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, The Survivalist, The 12th Man). And when the two of them go out to a local club he hits it off with Janine (Ieva Florence, Swindlers, Blizzard of Souls) and even gets her number before she leaves.
Obviously, things going good does not make for a compelling thriller, and sure enough, things quickly take a turn for the worse. Leaving the club after a few too many, David hits and kills a cyclist, and it’s Janine. Robert convinces the drunk and shocked David to flee the scene, But he can’t escape his guilt or the crime itself as he’s assigned to cover the hit and run for the paper.
And in doing that he meets Janine’s sister Vanessa (Eloise Smyth, I Am Mortal, The Frankenstein Chronicles) and the two become involved. But as David finds himself in way over his head, Robert, being the good neighbor he is, plans to make sure their involvement stays undiscovered, no matter what it takes.
It’s fairly obvious from reading that, that The Good Neighbor relies on a hell of a lot of coincidences to make its plot work. Enough that it stretches the script’s credibility even without little touches like the drink he and Janine share being called “A Short Trip to Hell”. That’s something Stephan Rick (The Dark Side of the Moon, The Super) who directed The Good Neighbor as well as co-writing it with Ross Partridge (Interstate 84, Mutual Friends) should know. He directed and co-wrote the original German version, Unter Nachbarn, in 2011.
Unfortunately in the ten years between versions, he couldn’t find a way to make The Good Neighbor’s story less dependent on such an unlikely chain of events or avoid plot holes such as why a big international news bureau would be covering a local story like the hit and run. Worst of all he didn’t make it any less predictable.
And The Good Neighbor does follow a well-worn path. You can tell how the plot is going to go almost every step of the way. And once Robert starts becoming unglued, both at the thought of their crime being discovered and out of jealousy that Vanessa is taking David’s attention away from him, you can predict who will become a victim and in what order. As well as the film’s ultimate ending. In that regard, It’s almost like a Lifetime movie for guys.
The acting and direction were solid enough to keep me watching, but my hopes that The Good Neighbor would go off in an unexpected direction went unfulfilled. Kleintank is for the most part convincing as the tormented protagonist, but it was hard believing he would get involved with Vanessa even though you see it coming. The script couldn’t make it a believable action for what is supposed to be a sympathetic character.
Meyers for his part is quite chilling as the obsessive Richard although there are moments where go goes a bit over the top with it. Although not nearly as far as he did in Yakuza Princess, however. And, also unlike in that film, he doesn’t put his junk on display in The Good Neighbor.
If you want a thriller and are in an undemanding mood you could do worse than The Good Neighbor. It’s a familiar story but at least it’s competently made. It’s currently in theatres and on VOD and Digital platforms via Screen Media Films. You can get more information including a list of theatres where it’s playing on their website. And if you want some good alternatives, FilmTagger has a few suggestions.