In an attempt to recreate the "(insert pun) from hell" sub-genre once populated in the '90s by the likes of PACIFIC HEIGHTS (1990), BAD INFLUENCE (1990), THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE (1992) and UNLAWFUL ENTRY (1992), Finnish director Antti Jokinen's Hollywood debut, THE RESIDENT has the blessing of a talented cast comprising of two-time Academy Award winners Hilary Swank (1999's BOYS DON'T CRY and 2004's MILLION DOLLAR BABY), Jeffrey Dean Morgan and screen legend Christopher Lee and a team of first-rate production crews. But in what could have been a potentially good thriller-in-the-making, THE RESIDENT turns out to be shockingly dull in almost all departments. In fact, the movie is bad enough that the studio has decided to discard a would-be wide theatrical release and dumped it into direct-to-DVD market instead.
The story centers on Dr. Juliet Devereau (Hilary Swank), a physician working at the Brooklyn General Hospital, is desperately seeking to rent an apartment to start a new life especially after a painful break-up with her cheating boyfriend, Jack (Lee Pace of TV's Pushing Daisies). She manages to find a spacious and nice-looking apartment owned by a kind-hearted guy named Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). At first she figures she can't afford such huge apartment since it's going to cost her a fortune but surprisingly, Max ensures her that the rental is only $3,800. It's certainly too good to be true but Juliet is happily agrees to accept the offer. At some point, Juliet has affection over Max who regularly helps her moving in and fixes things until she almost falls in love with him. On the other hand, Max has mutual feeling for her as well but the day when they almost kissed each other, Juliet feels uncertain and admits she still doesn't get over her thought for her ex-boyfriend. Max is very disappointed but at the same time, he never giving up hope over Juliet. Subsequently, we begins to learn that Max is a two-faced monster pretending to be a nice guy. Somewhere behind the wall of Juliet's apartment, Max is actually a sociopathic pervert with a sick obsession of voyeurism who loves to spy on her. Soon his predatory behavior becomes more dangerous when he finds out Juliet has rekindled her relationship with Jack.
From the look and feel of the story, Antti Jokinen and Robert Orr's screenplay almost echoes the lurid and engaging exploitation of "tenant from hell" made famous by PACIFIC HEIGHTS. Whereas PACIFIC HEIGHTS is blessed with the late John Schlesinger's thought-provoking direction, great cast (especially the incomparable Michael Keaton in his unforgettable bad-guy turn) and an equally compelling script, THE RESIDENT falls prey for being too lazy. That is lazy in terms of how increasingly silly and pathetic the story turns out at each passing moment. The biggest culprit of all is Jokinen fails miserably to make Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Max into a potentially engaging character. We actually learn very little of his sick obsession over Juliet and despite glimpse of flashback at some point, it's just not enough to justify his course of insanity. The other colossal mistake is of course, the way how Jokinen reveals Max as a two-faced monster. When the scene depicts him and Juliet are kissing each other, the movie literally flashes back at 10 minutes or so to show that Max has been stalking her right at the beginning even before she comes to the apartment she eventually agrees to rent the place. Such self-explanatory scene is a complete turn-off and a good thriller shouldn't be like that.
Apart from Jeffrey Dean Morgan's lackluster acting, Hilary Swank fails to engage as well. Despite trying her best to portray a tough exterior-with-inner vulnerability character and looking great with her well-toned body, her acting part leaves little to be desired of. Screen legend Christopher Lee is pretty much wasted in a thankless role as Max's suspicious-looking grandfather. As for another wasted talent like Lee Pace, the less said about him the better.
On the thriller front, there are some effective suspenseful moments courtesy by Guillermo Navarro's sneaky cinematography and John Ottman's pulse-pounding score. Unfortunately Jokinen doesn't know how to sustain a steady pace and more than often, the suspense tends to be repetitive. Not even the final 20-minute, during which Juliet tries to outrun the increasingly sociopathic Max around her apartment, earns enough token to save this overall stinker.
And speaking of voyeurism, where is Brian De Palma when we need him the most?