The Owners (2020)

The Owners wins a few points for taking a familiar horror trope and turning it right side out:  Usually, when scuzzy vandals invade the home of a tottering elderly couple, we can easily distinguish hunters from prey.  Not so much this time.  Unfortunately, by the movie’s loony final act, the filmmakers have loaded that promising premise into a Thelma and Louise convertible and sent it howling into a dusty ravine.  Some viewers might actually enjoy such a reckless leap into oblivion.  As for me, my patience and suspension of disbelief crashed with a fiery fury.  The Owners represents just another good idea wasted.

The story takes us to the British countryside, where three dimwitted criminals case the estate of a hoity-toity doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and his amiable, addled wife (Rita Tushingham).  Each of the robbers represents a different cliché:  Nathan (Ian Kenny) is the leader of the pack, and the only one with half a brain and the hint of a conscience.  Jean (Stacha Hicks) is a batshit provocateur–the Mr. Blonde of this particular outfit.  Finally, lunkheaded, lovesick Terry (Andrew Ellis) plays the dolt who can’t see the danger in front of his face.

As the old couple steps out for an evening, our dunder-brained gang embarks on a bumbling burglary.  They grope around the house for anything of value, and struggle mightily to unlock the basement safe.  Things only get worse when Mary (Maisie Williams) storms into the job.  She’s Nathan’s girlfriend, and she demands her car–their getaway vehicle–back so she can drive to work.  Soon, they are startled by the doctor and his wife, who come home much earlier than expected.  

The couple gets taken hostage, and this is where the movie chucks a good old-fashioned knuckleball:  It turns out that Mom and Pop aren’t feeble, and they don’t plan on going gentle into that good night.  They start playing mind games with their captors, turning them against one another and  causing each person to doubt themselves.  With an alarming amount of sociopathic savvy, the old couple quickly takes the upper hand. 

For better or worse, this is where the script veers completely off-road.  The story, which starts with a series of quirky, dialogue-driven scenes, transforms into an all-out melee.  The violence gets cartoonish.  Character motivations turn into gibberish.  By the epilogue, it honestly feels like we’re watching a completely different movie.

Here’s another issue:  Who do we care about in all this?  Ma and Pa Kettle are stone-cold killers.  The robbers range from moderately annoying to thoroughly repugnant.  Mary often comes across as callous and hateful.  Without any appealing characters to root for, all we’re left with is a bunch of people screaming and chasing each other for 90 minutes.  Few movies have ever had this high of a body count and been so boring.

As I enter my ninth month of fatherhood, I’m making a real effort to be a little less snarky.   If I’m gonna run a movie through the wringer, I also want to say something nice about it.  Here goes:  I think Maisie Williams is a star. She’ll avoid the typecasting curse of Arya Stark and do some great things. Williams outshines this material from start to finish, making her performance a little frustrating to watch.  In the future, a girl needs to choose her scripts better. 

92 min.  NR.  (Although it’s not rated, put this gory, profane sum’bitch down as a solid R.) 

See also:

Ready or Not (2019)

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Author: Todd Wofford

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