Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman are watched closely by Joel Edgerton in The Gift.

Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman are watched closely by Joel Edgerton in The Gift.

Reel Reviews: The Gift you have to keep

Joel Edgerton stars in this thriller that he also wrote, directed and co-produced — and it's worth seeing, says Brian Taylor

  • Aug. 21, 2015 2:00 p.m.

A married couple of 10 years, Simon and Robyn (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) move from Chicago to Los Angeles for his new job at a security firm. Robyn is an interior designer who recently lost a baby during pregnancy. Simon and Robyn are trying again, in many different ways. Their lives require a fresh start.

Quite by accident one day, Simon bumps into Gordon (Joel Edgerton), a socially awkward man who claims to remember him from high school. Simon and especially Robyn take a liking to Gordon when he starts coming around for visits, leaving thoughtful gifts for their new home.

It isn’t long before Simon remembers his newly reunited friend as Gordo the Weirdo, a kid who was ultimately taken away by the state. Simon tells Robyn that this friendship must end, Gordon could be dangerous. After he tells Gordo the same, he finds out he was correct.

I say, “Like a Slinky, The Gift is twisted fun.”

Mr. Howe and his family are camping this week, so I shall do my best…The Gift is the kind of movie I love: simple, quiet, inexpensive and good. It’s not great, but it has solid strengths. It cost only $5 million to make. It was written, directed and co-produced by Joel Edgerton, who also plays Gordo. Edgerton is an Australian you may have seen recently in Exodus: Gods and Kings. The Gift is very much his baby. I like when an individual has a good idea and runs with it to the finish line. We’re fortunate when the film also turns out well enough.

Edgerton’s acting is very effective as a slightly off-putting Gordo, in his ridiculous wig. (I presume it’s a wig. No haircut could be so disturbing.) He stares through you; even in his most jovial moments, you can feel his electricity. Gordo could explode at any second. I found Jason Bateman’s performance believable, a good balance between guilt and denial. As the damaged and sympathetic wife, Rebecca Hall was good — as a speaking American, not so much.

However, the star of the film is Gordo and the twisted revenge extracted from Simon. The story unpacks itself, piece by piece, reluctantly, like we’re pulling teeth. “Tell us what is going on!” cries the audience. “Oh I will,” says Gordo, staring seriously out his dark eyes, “but you will pay.”

I can’t tell you either, as that would spoil all the fun. I can tell you Gordo’s revenge isn’t gory or painful to watch. This isn’t a horror film, it’s a psychological thriller whose secrets must be kept. Just go see The Gift. It’s not perfect, but it’s entirely plausible and has a darkly satisfying ending. Not as good as Ex Machina’s ending, but worthy of your attention.

— I give The Gift 3.5 pretty packages on your doorstep out of 5.


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