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If the movies have taught us anything, it’s that no good comes from finding a fortune in money that seems to have dropped into your lap. Bad things are sure to follow, and such is the case in the English-language film debut of acclaimed Danish director Henrik Ruben Genz (2008’s Terribly Happy). Starring James Franco and Kate Hudson as a couple who run afoul of French and British gangsters after coming upon a stash of some $400,000 in their deceased tenant’s basement apartment, Good People follows a familiar thriller template without managing to be particularly compelling.
The central characters are Tom and Anna Reed, who have moved to London after inheriting a large but run-down house. Mired in debt and unable to come up with the money for the mortgage, let alone for fixing the house up, they find their prayers suddenly answered when their mysterious tenant winds up dead from a drug overdose, leaving behind a hidden suitcase stuffed with loot.
Needless to say, the money was achieved through nefarious means, namely a robbery of a drug dealer in which the dead man had betrayed his accomplices. In hot pursuit of the money and the accompanying drugs are vicious British gangster Jack (Sam Spruell) and French dealer Khan (Omar Sy, in far less charming mode here than he was in The Intouchables), as well as a suspicious police detective (Tom Wilkinson) who has a personal stake in the situation.
The screenplay by Kelly Masterson (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Snowpiercer), adapted from the novel by Marcus Sakey, lays out the situation clearly and coherently enough, with Tom finally convincing his reluctant wife to hold on to the money, spend just as much as they need to keep their heads above water, and wait to see if anyone claims it.
“Money isn’t bad,” he argues. “It’s what people do with it.”
Naturally it isn’t long before the various bad guys descend on the couple, with all hell eventually breaking loose in a final confrontation during which Anna reveals unexpected pluck and Tom employs his handyman skills to sometimes lethal effect. While much of what has preceded suffers from slow-build dullness, the elaborate final setpiece is excitingly staged.
Playing the sort of attractive if annoying couple whose efforts to get pregnant involve something they euphemistically refer to as “sushi night,” Franco and Hudson go through their paces without much conviction, and even Wilkinson is uncharacteristically subdued. Sy and Anna Friel, the latter as a friend who gets caught up in the mayhem, have relatively little to do. But Spruell makes for a particularly frightening bad guy whose sadistic tendencies are on full and graphic display.
Production companies: Film 360, Maguire Entertainment, Material Pictures, Millennium Films
Cast: James Franco, Kate Hudson, Tom Wilkinson, Anna Friel, Omar Sy, Sam Spruell
Director: Henrik Ruben Genz
Screenwriter: Kelly Masterson
Producers: Ed Cathell III, Thomas Gammeltoft, Eric Kranzler, Avi Lerner, Tobey Maguire
Executive producers: Robert Katz, Matthew O’Toole, Neil Sacker
Director of photography: Jorgen Johansson
Production designer: Kave Quinn
Costume designer: Keith Madden
Editor: Paul Tothill
Composer: Neil Davidge
Rated R, 90 minutes
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