You Might Also Like? explores lesser-known movies related to big new releases.
We begin this entry with Birdman, the comeback vehicle for Michael Keaton that currently has the Internet going nuts (with the notable exception of our own Scott Tobias, who did not care for it one bit). Birdman casts Batman star Keaton as the Michael Keaton-like star of Birdman, a superhero series centering on the titular crimefighter. This got me thinking about the many subpar motion pictures Keaton has churned out since his heyday, which led me to a particularly dodgy Keaton movie I had never even heard of: Blindsided.
Alternately titled Penthouse North (because it takes place in a penthouse), Blindsided involves a blind woman who is, yes, blindsided by the unexpected arrival of murderous thugs in her home. The movie opens with plucky photojournalist Sarah (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’s Michelle Monaghan) shooting images in an Afghanistan war zone, as American soldiers continually shoot her that “please stop taking fucking photographs before you get fucking shot, or get us shot” look, when they’re not actually yelling at her to stop fucking taking photographs for everyone’s benefit. Sara is hard-headed, however, and before she knows it, she is being blinded by an Afghani rebel masquerading as the mother of a young baby. If you somehow miss this sequence, don’t worry, as Sara flashes back to it whenever anything stressful happens, so you’ll be able to revisit it at least three more times over the course of the film’s lean yet insanely padded 86-minute running time.
Back in the States, Sara can no longer work as a photographer, but she has settled into a pretty comfortable life as the girlfriend of a sketchy dude named Ryan (Andrew W. Walker). All we know about Ryan is that he’s crazy rich from doing shady business-type transactions involving money and finance and also deals. Sounds above-board, right? Or at least Sara—poor, simple, trusting Sara—imagines it to be, until she comes home one New Year’s Eve afternoon and discovers that Ryan has been murdered by Chad (Barry Sloane).
Chad informs Sara, and us, that Ryan wasn’t the non-criminal, non-scumbag he totally appeared to be in his 90 seconds of screen time before getting murdered, and was actually a fellow scumbag who is able to afford a lush penthouse not with the money from his various legal business deals but by ripping off lowlifes like himself. A terrified Sara escapes her apartment complex and runs out into the street where she runs into Hollander (Keaton), a suspicious-seeming older dude who loudly announces that he’s a prosecutor and a non-criminal before taking her back to her penthouse and announcing that he is in fact an even bigger criminal than Ryan or Chad and will menace the crap out of her, blind or not, until he gets the money, and something more valuable than money Ryan must have hidden around his home.
It’s at this point that Blindsided becomes an intimate game of cat and mouse—or rather, a stupidly blunt game of “Menace the cat along with the blind lady,” because that’s just what Hollander, who is nowhere near as smooth or as suave in his villainy as the films seems to think he is, does when he picks up Sara’s beloved black cat and, after talking about what an animal-lover he is, casually tosses the cat off the balcony.
This should be a moment of stark terror. Nothing is off limits! If this sinister man will casually murder a cat just to establish his heartlessness, then there’s seemingly no limit to the kind of evil he can perpetuate. Instead, this moment engenders a massive chuckle—although, to be fair, Chad’s indignant response to the impromptu cat-chucking, “You want answers, you don’t go throwing cats around!” is nearly as guffaw-inducing. Let that be a lesson to you: If you also want answers, either existentially or practically, you will not find them by throwing cats off balconies willy-nilly.
Blindsided should be a lean, economical thriller, a sturdy exercise in no-nonsense craft from old pros like Keaton and director Joseph Ruben, who has at least one masterpiece on his resumé in the form of 1987’s The Stepfather, but whose direction here seldom even rises to the level of workmanlike. It does not help that the penthouse itself is bracketed by some of the least convincing rooftop green-screen this side of The Room. And though it would be nice to write that Keaton rises above the material, he seems understandably bored with the film and with himself. So while I’m excited to see Birdman, despite Scott’s review, I would not encourage anyone to see this suspense-free thriller of staggering mediocrity. It is less a comeback film than an example of the garbage from which Keaton has had to come back.