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Friday, October 30, 2015

THE GIFT -- Blu-ray/DVD Review by Porfle

Ever worry about someone from your distant past showing up and ruining your life because of something you did to them?  Or, perhaps, something they only think you did to them because they're nuts?

In Joel Edgerton's dark thriller THE GIFT (2015), this very thing happens to rising young executive Simon (Jason Bateman) and his unsuspecting wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) when Simon's former high school acquaintance Gordo (Edgerton) re-enters his life like a virus.

After they run into him in a department store, Gordo starts showing up at their wonderful new house and infecting their wonderful new lives before they've even settled in after a move from Chicago to southern California.  A bit too needy for friendship and just plain odd in an unsettling kind of way, Gordo keeps imposing on their privacy until Simon deems it necessary to level with him that it's time to "break up" their relationship.

Robyn feels uncomfortable about doing this, as do we.  I myself was dreading such a confrontation from the start since (a) Gordo seems like nothing worse than a well-meaning but socially awkward shlub at first, and (b) if he's really as "off" as Simon suspects, then chances are he isn't going to take rejection very well.

Naturally, the situation escalates (the sequence in which Gordo invites them over to dinner at his house is deliciously awkward) until all of Simon's suspicions about him are confirmed.  Where the troubled man once left pitiful little gifts at their doorstep, he now leaves more ominous and even sinister evidences of his being there.  And when their dog disappears, it's time to call in the police. 

But even at this stage, Robyn continues to give Gordo the benefit of the doubt, as do the dubious cops who find no evidence of wrongdoing.  This is where Simon begins to take more drastic steps to solve the Gordo problem, and things get out of hand.

Meanwhile, Robyn starts to find out some troubling things about Simon himself and the mysterious incident in his past which seems to be coming back to haunt him.  Her discovery that she's pregnant again after a tumultuous miscarriage raises the stakes even higher. And someone's creeping around in the house when she's by herself...

Like Edgar Kennedy in a Laurel and Hardy comedy, THE GIFT does an extended slow burn before things start to sizzle around the halfway mark.  I was even ready to write it off as a well-meaning bore until the story veered off into some interesting directions, while a few wicked plot twists had me relishing each new revelation. 

It's an impressive directorial debut from Joel Edgerton, who also wrote the scintillating screenplay in which he gives himself the juicy character of Gordo to play.  You may remember Edgerton as the young Owen Lars in the second and third STAR WARS prequels as well as such films as OPEN WINDOW and the recent BLACK MASS.  Here, he manages just the right level of "disturbed" to make us wonder whether his character is really guilty as charged or if he himself is actually a victim. 

As Robyn, Rebecca Hall (LAY THE FAVORITE) gains our sympathy with a soulful performance. Jason Bateman (HANCOCK, "Arrested Development") continues to impress by revealing different dimensions of Simon's character which are surprising and sometimes startling.  Writer-director Edgerton places his hapless protagonists in a house with lots of big glass windows at which to throw stones--both figuratively and literally. 

The 2-disc set from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (also available as a single-disc DVD) contains the Blu-ray and DVD plus instructions for a digital HD download.  The film is in 2.40:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. Extras include a director and editor commentary, alternate ending, deleted scenes, trailers, and the featurettes "Karma For Bullies" and "The Darker Side of Jason Bateman."

THE GIFT goes from dark, edgy drama into serious thriller territory with a long-simmering revenge motif reminiscent of OLDBOY, teaching us that not only is karma a bitch, but sometimes it's a really crazy one. 

Buy it at
Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD with Ultraviolet


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