A sexy thriller that gets released theatrically doesn’t happen all that much these days. And even when there is one that comes along it tends to either be lacking in one of the namesake areas, like Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution (thrills in that case), or it’s a sex gamer, like the upcoming adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey (for more clarification on sex gamer see here). But in 2015 we got a bona fide sexy fucking thriller in The Boy Next Door.
The plot is essentially Fatal Attraction with the roles reversed, the guy is the psycho lover and the woman has to fight for her life. Jennifer Lopez (Money Train, Anaconda) is Claire, a high school English teacher that’s having trouble with her marriage. John Corbett (Sex and the City, Street Kings) is the cheating husband that wants Claire back. He comes off like a rich bitch douche even though we see him do nothing but the nicest things for Claire and their son Kevin (Ian Nelson (The Judge)). I guess the reason why he seems like a total herb is the way he pompously carries himself and just the fact that we know he cheated on his (really hot) wife.
In steps next door neighbor Noah played by Ryan Guzman (Step Up Revolution, Step Up All In) (see what I did there?). He’s a hunky charismatic dreamboat. Guzman gives the best performance and can really turn on both the undivided charm and the murderous rage. I get why Claire, or any woman, would fall for him. The movie does a good job setting up this character as a likable, if a bit too saccharine at times, person that you could see yourself being friendly with. He’s part meathead with his boxin’ and car fixin’, but also part geek with his Iliad readin’ and computer hackin’. He’s designed so that most people can identify with some part of him.
So anyway Claire and Noah fuck. Claire feels guilty about it the next morning and wants to forget the whole thing. Noah is in love with her and doesn’t understand why Claire is pulling away. Naturally stalking, harassment and an eventual showdown ensue.
What I really like about this film is the balance of sex and thrills. Most of the time Jennifer Lopez doesn’t wear anything very revealing with longer skirts and tops that cover her cleavage. But every once in a while she has on a nightgown where the slit goes pretty far up her thigh or you’ll get a glimpse of side boob from her loose shirt. So it’s kind of two extremes where either she’ll dress really conservatively or in something really skimpy. Noah is handled the same way, he’ll wear some hip as shit buttoned down jean shirt with a wool tie or he’ll have on a wife beater.
As for the thrills this has plenty. I shouldn’t reveal too much but there are some intense moments, like there’s your typical sneaking around looking for info but there’s also a fairly well done scene with Kevin and his dad careening down a mountain road in a car with no brakes. The finale is over the top and one of the best moments in the picture. Nothing about it makes much sense and there’s one moment where it gets pretty damn funny but I’ll let you guys discover that for yourselves.
The not very good but usually somewhat entertaining Rob Cohen directed this. He’s had such an interesting career dating back to the 70’s where he produced shit like The Wiz and then into the 80’s where he produced The Running Man and The Monster Squad. As a director he made xXx, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (which he also wrote) and, more recently, Alex Cross. But he will forever be known (at least in my mind) as the motherfucker who started The Fast and the Furious franchise. This dude paved the way for the excellent Fast Five and, not as good but still immensely fun, Fast & Furious 6. I may not care for most of the work Cohen has done but I respect the man.
And you know what? Chalk this up as another fascinating notch on his pretty varied dashboard. I liked this one. It’s one silly sonuvabitch of a movie that had me laughing out loud a couple of times but it believes in the material. Everything is presented seriously and knows what it’s trying to achieve. Cohen and J. Lo (who produced this) set out to make a sexy thriller that harkened back to the glory days and they succeeded.
In typical Cohen style it’s not subtle. All of the references, motivations and emotions are in your face. And usually that type of thing would annoy the shit outta me but I found it enjoyable here. Not that I was expecting to turn off my brain when I went to go see it but in this case it just worked for me.
They were able to make this thing for four million bucks which is astonishing. Not only does it look and feel great but who the hell makes a theatrically released film for that kind of money anymore? Kudos to Cohen and co for making something that’s more effective than a lot of what’s released today on such a petite budget.
Overall I guess this tends to veer off into so-bad-it’s-good territory. Lopez’s acting is terrible, a bunch of the situations are absurdly humorous and everything plays out exactly how you think it will. But the tension is kept high, the plot is classic that hasn’t been done to death and visually it’s pretty to look at (in more ways than one (get it? (J. Lo is a piece))). It’s satisfying. I left with a smile on my face and a chuckle in my heart. It was pretty much everything I wanted it to be.
It’s no classic though. I wouldn’t put it in the pantheon of illustrious sexy thrillers but it’s worth your time. That boy next door is comin’ for ya, let him in.