I’m not necessarily proud of the fact, but I own two movies with Andie MacDowell featured prominently on the DVD cover, and enjoy them immensely despite her presence. I’m talking about Groundhog Day and Four Weddings and a Funeral, of course (what, you were thinking The Muse, perhaps?), and so I approached As Good As Dead wondering if I would be blown away, and fall prey to the long-dreaded MacDowell hat trick.
No worries, as it turns out. Though MacDowell’s proclivity for constipated, furrowed-brow pronouncement rears its head every once in a while, kidnap/home invasion drama As Good As Dead bobs along engagingly for a while and then kind of dissipates on final contact as the end credits roll, a weird, full-to-the-brim cocktail of major-chord drama. Scripted by Eve Pomerance and Erez Mossek, and directed by Jonathan
Mossek, the story crams domestic/marital strife, kidnapping, white supremacist grandstanding, more generalized scumbag terrorizing, good, old-fashioned vengeance and ironic revenge into one claustrophobic tale.
What begins as an average day for Ethan (Cary Elwes), a divorced photographer juggling custody of his young daughter with his ex-wife Kate (Nicole Ansari), takes a dangerous turn when mysterious attackers break into his New York apartment and hold him hostage. The home invaders, who are led by Helen (MacDowell), aren’t looking to rob him, though. On a mission of revenge, the assailants, including Jake (Matt Dallas)
and the more psychotic and unhinged Aaron (Frank Whaley), are instead looking to avenge the years-old murder of Reverend Kalahan (Brian Cox), Helen’s racist right-wing cult leader/preacher husband. Ethan swears he had nothing to do with the crime, but Helen and her crew weigh how best to extract their pound of flesh, even as interrogations shed doubt on Ethan’s culpability. Also getting sucked into the proceedings as a hostage is Ethan’s innocent neighbor Amy (Jess Weixler).
From a story-structure point-of-view, there’s probably at least one too many characters here, whether it’s Dallas’ glowering Jake and/or Weixler’s Amy, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Juggling pathos and seething anger does not come easily to MacDowell, and Elwes, too, trades in an unplaceable accent that comes and goes. Still, there’s a hearty investment in the characters (over only action) that makes their moral dilemmas seem rather palpable, and Mossek and crew grind some nice drama out of a confined space, though, again, one wishes the dialogue and did-he-or-didn’t-he? machinations had a bit more intellectual heft, or master-chess-level scheming to them. All in all, this is a fine way to pass the time for those who are fans of the lead actors, but only as a rental — not a keeper.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, As Good As Dead comes to DVD presented in what’s billed as 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen but is actually 1.78:1 widescreen, with an English language 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound audio track, and optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles. Its motion screen menu divides the movie into 12 chapters. Bonus features consist of a half dozen preview trailers, including for The Assassin Next Door, as well as a sub-par, uninvolving behind-the-scenes featurette that consists of 19-plus minutes of mostly unshaped on-set and B-roll footage. An additional 19 minutes of cast and crew interviews includes thoughts from producers Heidi Jo Markel and Jordan Gertner, as well as plenty of cross-cut, backslapping praise by all the actors. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C (Movie) C- (Disc)