Arlington Road

on July 09, 1999 by Christine James
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You expect evil in Hell, in fascist countries, at cockfights and in the local mall during the Furby Christmas Melee of '98. What's really scary about evil is when it insinuates itself into seemingly innocuous settings. Remember what Freddy Krueger did to sleepy Elm Street? Even he might balk at the actions of the newest residents of tranquil Arlington Road.
Professor Michael Faraday (Jeff Bridges) and his son Grant (Spencer Treat Clark) have gone out of their way to welcome their new neighbors, Oliver and Cheryl Lang (Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack), to their pleasant suburban neighborhood, which is replete with manicured lawns and bustling with soccer moms and station wagons. The Langs, in turn, are nothing if not friendly and gregarious-maybe too much so. Faraday grows suspicious of his new best friends and, after catching Oliver in a few minor lies, he becomes convinced that they are involved in nefarious schemes. The fact the Faraday teaches a course about terrorism and is an avid conspiracy theorist helps him unearth vital clues-or perhaps his obsessions, exacerbated by the senseless death of his FBI agent wife, are fueling his paranoid delusions.
Robbins and Cusack are deviantly delightful as the picture-perfect couple with a dark secret. Both actors possess a quirky affability and manic intensity that is often used for comic effect, but here is chillingly intimidating and intriguing.
Bridges turns in a good performance as well, though his character disappoints by lacking the truly inventive resourcefulness that only a man with his extent of knowledge from his compulsive studies would be able to employ. There are few things as cinematically fulfilling in a dramatic thriller than an escalating battle of wits between two mad geniuses; unfortunately, both parties fall short. This may have been part of a conscious decision to eschew Hollywoodization, as the purposefully unsatisfying (and partially illogical) ending would indicate; however, this only seems to call attention to the fact that it's supposed to be a "makes you think" film, which feels somewhat didactic. Starring Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack and Hope Davis. Directed by Mark Pellington. Written by Ehren Kruger. Produced by Tom Gorai, Marc Samuelson and Peter Samuelson. A Screen Gems release. Thriller. Rated R for violence and some language. Running time: 119 min.
Tags: Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Hope Davis, Mark Pellington, Ehren Kruger, Tom Gorai, Marc Samuelson, Peter Samuelson, Screen Gems, Thriller, evil, scary, obsessions
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