“Penthouse North” Fails to Thrill

Michelle Monaghan and Michael Keaton star in this home invasion thriller that has some good moments but ultimately disappoints. Ryan Pollard takes a look…

Penthouse-North-posterSara (Michelle Monaghan) is a former photojournalist who lost her sight when she was victim to a suicide bomber while on assignment in the Middle East. She now lives a reclusive life in a luxurious New York penthouse with her boyfriend, Ryan. One New Year’s Eve, she arrives home from doing some shopping to find, eventually, her boyfriend murdered and the killers (Michael Keaton and Barry Sloane) still in the apartment. It appears that Ryan used to be involved in some shady business with them and made off with a fortune worth of diamonds, and that they have now come back to collect them, and while the party rages outside, inside Sara fights desperately for her life.

Home-invasion thrillers usually tend to involve small casts, short time frames and minimal locations, and the best of this genre of films use those elements to create a dark and claustrophobic feeling that leaves you feeling uneasy. Despite having these key elements to create a tense thriller, Penthouse North doesn’t quite manage to establish that uneasy atmosphere and therefore doesn’t succeed in truly unnerving you as a viewer. It doesn’t really feel cinematic, and feels more like a direct-to-DVD/blu-ray or a TV movie with pure B-movie dialogue that is barely memorable.

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With such a small cast, the majority of the film only involves three characters, and so a greater than usual burden falls on the actors to try and engage the viewer throughout. Michael Keaton is the highlight as the main villain and he has always had a manic, unhinged quality – he has the crazy eyes – and this has served him well in the past in playing characters like Beetlejuice and Batman. It is enjoyable seeing him play a villain and he does quite well here, giving his character a real sense of menace. Barry Sloane performs solidly as Michael Keaton’s partner-in-crime, but he never really grips or intrigues you in the way Keaton does. As Sara, Michelle Monaghan tries valiantly with what she has, and she does manage to convey real emotion when facing the possibility of being killed by the two burglars. She always does her best in the supporting roles she has done, whether it’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or Source Code, but it is hard to not see her as someone pretending to be blind and that’s a shame, but at least she gives one of her best performances.

This is director Joseph Ruben’s first film since 2004’s The Forgotten, and is a strange choice of drought-breaker. David Loughery’s screenplay goes through the motions without offering any surprises, leaving you the sense that you have seen all these generic tropes before, and the result is a film that lacks tension and suspense. Overall, Penthouse North is not a terrible film, but it’s just not any good and is barely memorable. So, despite a reasonable cast doing their best with what is a fairly generic B-movie script, Penthouse North is ultimately unremarkable, even if it never actually becomes bad.

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Written by Ryan Pollard

Penthouse-North-posterDirected by: Joseph Ruben
Written by: David Loughery
Starring: Michelle Monaghan, Michael Keaton

Released: 2013 / Genre: Thriller / Country: USA / IMDB

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About the Author
Ryan Pollard is a former student of Animation at the University of Huddersfield.

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