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Arlington Road (1999)
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Review Date: July 07, 1999
Director: Mark Pellington
Writer: Ehren Kruger
Producers: P. Samuelson, T. Gorai, M. Samuelson
Actors:
Jeff Bridges
Tim Robbins
Plot:
University professor who teaches a class in domestic terrorism suspects his "Leave it to Beaver"-type next door neighbors as being a dressed-up family behind certain harrowing right-wing activities. Does the man suffer from mass paranoia due to his wife's death to extremists' hands, or is he right on the ball?
Critique:
Despite its general predictability and slow start, this film did manage to grab me by the balls, and fingernail-biting wise, thoroughly entertain me for its very last half hour. In fact, the ending of this film was one of the most inspired that I've seen come out of Hollywood in a while. I personally enjoyed its refreshing conclusion, whilst my better half, Mrs. JoBlo, found it quite unsatisfying (She loved the film otherwise). It would be fair to say that this film's script is not its grandest asset, but that its director is the one who should be applauded for turning this sub-level thrilling story, into a most interesting thriller with a race to the finish ending from hell. The shooting style, the dark scenarios, the uneasy feel of its soundtrack (Note that the man behind those sounds is the very same man who composed many of weirdo director David Lynch's eerily satisfying soundtracks, Angelo Badalamenti) are three elements used effectively by the director to create a decent build-up of tension. It sorta felt like the movie FALLING DOWN for me, with a man literally "losing it" onscreen.

As the man who "loses it", Jeff Bridges staples his reputation as the actor with the fluffiest hair in Hollywood, a superb capacity to cry at a drop of a dime (A few less scenes of him tearing up might've improved my score as well) and the actor best to be remembered as the slow-motion running dude towards a camera. Despite those redundancies, Bridges did still manage to convey a real interesting man who slowly crumbles before our very eyes, while Robbins creepily presented his neighbor as a sorted side-dish to the hodge-podge of mayhem. Liking Joan Cusack as I do, I wished they'd have used her more often in this film, but that predicament was clearly not to be. Add an extremely powerful opening scene, a slow-to-get-going first hour, a semi-predictable plot to the stylish wonders of the director, an effective soundtrack, and some decent acting gigs by all involved, and you've got yourself an above-average thriller that doesn't break much new ground, but certainly entertains as a whole. The original ending might turn some off, but certainly, it helped in certifying my own opinion of this film towards the green light of recommendation.

No need to see this puppy in the theatres, but certainly an entertaining video/nacho night treat. Just make sure that you don't watch it with your neighbors : )
(c) 2015 Berge Garabedian
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