A young American couple (James Franco and Kate Hudson) falls into severe debt while renovating a home in London. When they discover that the tenant in the apartment below them was murdered and left $400,000 cash stashed in the ceiling, the couple thinks all of their problems are solved…but that's when very bad things start happening to good people.
Based on a novel from 2008, ‘Good People’ features a young American couple who have relocated to London to start a family and renovate a house they’ve inherited. The movie stars James Franco as Tom Wright, an earnest guy with a Master’s Degree who is trying to earn a living as a laborer, and Kate Hudson as his wife Anna, a teacher who is desperate to get pregnant. Failing in their efforts to restore their money pit and under the threat of eviction, the two find themselves in desperate need of cash. Days later, they discover two-hundred twenty thousand pounds (nearly half a million dollars American) literally at their feet when their basement tenant dies of an overdose, leaving drugs and a bag full of bills hidden in his ceiling.
After convincing themselves that they morally deserve to keep their discovery (“So maybe this money is a gift to help us get our lives back on track,” Tom reasons), trouble approaches in multiple different directions. Detective Inspector John Halden (played with sincerity by Tom Wilkinson) is an honest police officer haunted by the memory of his deceased drug-addicted daughter. He eventually recruits the couple to help snare a blood-thirsty drug-dealer named Jack Witkowski (a two-dimensional portrayal by Sam Spruell), a masochist determined to get the money back. Meanwhile, a second villain who likens himself to Genghis Khan (played with a little more zest by Omar Sy) seeks revenge against Witkowski for an earlier betrayal. Of course, our fellow Americans get caught in the middle of this three-way war, and the final act of the movie becomes a prolonged cat-and-mouse game.
Consistent with the title, the movie introduces our protagonists sympathetically, and tries its best to maintain our interest in their personal affairs. Both James Franco and Kate Hudson are at their most charming when engaged in domestic matters, but their performances becomes wooden and clinical as soon as all the drama and chaos begins. As a result, it’s difficult to feel any sense of tension and danger when our hero and heroine react as if medicated. Moreover, their prevailing angst over their childless state feels like a cheap device to evoke emotions for characters who seem more stupid than naive. The final resolution of that problem is so predictable and clichéd, that I felt like booing through the end credits.
Whenever the movie slows down so that our heroes can provide more pathos and exposition, the lapses in logic become all the more glaring (How is it that neither of the gangs are able to keep adequate track of their targets? Is the police department really so corrupt that Detective Halden must always act alone?) and the technical problems all the more obvious (Was that guy just shot by a bullet the size of a cannonball? Did the director mean to make that scene shake so awkwardly? Was that piece of dialogue meant to be funny?). I don’t expect brilliance in your run-of-the-mill, trashy thrillers, but I do expect a greater degree of competency. Given that this is Danish director Henrik Ruben Genz’s first “Americanized” effort, I have to imagine that he has more creative talent than what is displayed in this movie.
Several other predictable and trashy scenes include a mother and her baby being taken hostage at gunpoint, a person getting a nail through the head, and a brief shot of Ms. Hudson’s naked butt. I’m not squeamish when it comes to violence, nor do I object when it comes to showing off the female form. But when such footage is presented for the sake of maintaining our interest, it just feels gratuitous.
Finally, things go from mediocre to downright laughable when the final conflict essentially rips off the climax from any given ‘Home Alone’ movie. We even get a brief montage on how the traps are set, but without the upbeat John Williams soundtrack and without the charm of a precocious kid. This misguided climax will make your jaw drop and eyes roll.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Millennium Entertainment offers ‘Good People’ and its bonus materials on a single platter disc occupying 16 GB of space, packaged in a standard bluecase. Front loaded trailers precede the animated main menu.
‘Good People’ is presented in MPEG-4 AVC encoding and displayed in 16 x 9 full frame, so no letterboxing is evident. The picture quality is only average at best, with a distinct lack of fine detail and washed out colors in nearly every scene. While artifacts are not apparent during casual viewing, there is very little which impressed me about this grainy, high definition presentation. Whether such dreary visuals are the results of an artistic decision or the fault of a poor transfer is anyone’s guess.
Though presented in Dolby TruHD for 5.1 surround or 2.0 stereo, ‘Good People’ sounds dynamically compressed and without any notable low-end effects, which is curious considering the amount of physical violence present in the story. Surround activity is kept to a minimum, even during moments where a more enveloping aural experience would be beneficial. For example, a scene in which a jet plane flies overhead pans from the rear channels to the front, but the sound is tinny and shallow, even though the effect is meant to mask the sound of a car screeching nearby.
Fortunately, dialogue is clear and intelligible though anchored primarily to the center channel. Low bass can occasionally be heard when the percussive score dominates, but other audio effects remain distinctively in low fidelity. Overall, the sound is more than adequate for this type of thriller, but it’s not one to challenge your state of the art surround sound system. Subtitles are presented in Spanish as well as English with little to no paraphrasing.
The only real special feature provided on this single platter Blu-ray disc is a “Making of Featurette.” Unsurprisingly, this short clip (running for only two-minutes and fifty-two seconds) is as superficial as the film itself. The main cast say a few words about their characters and the plot, while a montage of images play. It plays more like an introduction to a documentary than anything else. Given the modest running time of the main feature, I expected to find a couple of deleted or extended scenes to flesh out numerous problem spots, but none are offered.
In addition, the disc serves up five trailers which are not noted on the packaging: ‘Rob The Mob,’ ‘Are You Here,” ‘Parts Per Billion,’ ‘Fading Gigolo,’ and for the main feature itself. Strangely, all four clips are presented in standard definition quality (MPEG-2) with an abundance of compression artifacts and plain vanilla stereo sound. Needless to say, it’s not the most ideal way to sell studio titles on a high definition format.
For a better thriller of a similar type, viewers should check out ‘A Simple Plan’ directed by Sam Raimi, in which a struggling couple find a jackpot of money which only serves to complicate their once humble lives. While not without its own flaws, that fifteen year old movie puts ‘Good People’ to utter shame. This is for fans only.