Movie Review: Disturbia

Not a lot to say about this one other than that it’s a great little flick and I highly recommend it.

Shia LaBeouf — who was just cast as a mystery character who’s most likely Indy’s son in Indiana Jones IV — is Kale, a teenager devastated by one of the most brutal car accidents you’ll ever see on film. Kale might have miraculously walked away with superficial physical injuries, but the emotional scars he carries from having lost his father in the accident are the kind that never really heal. And because he was driving, he blames himself.

One year later, still broken and deeply troubled, he punches out his Spanish teacher (who was admittedly kind of asking for it) and gets three months in-home incarceration. At first it’s a picnic of video games, iTunes and TV. But his mom, played by Carrie-Anne Moss from The Matrix movies and Memento, reminds him that his current situation is not a vacation by cutting off all his entertainment. (Carrie-Anne is still every bit the striking beauty she was in the Matrix movies; I kept expecting her to say, “I’m going to float up in the air, spin around and chop this mutha-fuckin’ big-screen TV in half, BIYAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”)

And Kale can’t go anywhere, because of an ankle bracelet that brings the cops coming if he ventures outside the confines of his lawn. (This is used to significant suspenseful effect several times throughout the film.)

His solution is to use his binoculars to observe the neighbors in his seemingly perfect little suburbia. The most exciting thing he discovers is a husband having an affair with the cleaning lady, until the gorgeous Ashley (Sarah Roemer) moves in next door and goes swimming. A lot. Kale is obviously intrigued, and of course she figures out what he’s doing and ends up knocking on his door one sunny afternoon. She ends up joining Kale and his funny Asian buddy, Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), as they observe the neighborhood goings-on. They’re like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, with more technology. And one of the Hardy Boys is Asian. And Nancy owns lots of nice swimsuits.

The happenings just happen to include the odd comings-and-goings of Mr. Turner, played with effortless, quietly simmering intimidation by David Morse. (Will somebody please get this man a good guy role? If I ever get to make my Superman movie, I’m casting him as Jonathan Kent.)

Kale becomes convinced that Mr. Turner is a serial killer. But of course there ends up being an almost-too-perfect explanation for each of Turner’s curious behaviors. Almost. As the film progresses, things get increasingly uncomfortable and increasingly suspenseful, culminating in a brutal, scary climax that elevates Disturbia far above the typical teen drama I was afraid it was going to be.

Though Disturbia is about teens, it isn’t aimed at teens. What particularly makes it tick is the above-and-beyond leading man work done here by Shia LaBeouf, who ably shows strength and vulnerability and terror and humor and everything else that’s asked of him. Yoo is funny as Ronnie, and Roemer couldn’t possibly have been more alluring (without even trying to be, which is why she’s so alluring) as Ashley. And of course it’s hard to find an actor who can play menace as well as Morse.

I’d been wanting to see this anyway, and I’m glad to say it was better than I thought it was going to be. In fact, I was thinking during the closing moments that I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel set in the same little neighborhood. After all, I’m sure Kale’s got plenty of neighbors who are up to other kinds of no good. It could be like Die Hard in the suburbs, where Kale can’t believe he keeps getting into the same crazy kinds of situations over and over again.

It’s good. Check it out.

True Story

The little kids next door who play practical jokes on Kale are the children of the film’s director, D.J. Caruso.


Take a look at Box Office MojoDisturbia opened at number one with a healthy take of $23 million.