Haven’t heard of Shia LaBeouf? Sure you have. He’s had parts in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, I, Robot, Holes, Constantine; and Bobby. Not to mention he carried The Battle of Shaker Heights – the movie from Project Greenlight’s second season.
Still not ringing any bells? Well, that won’t last much longer. With Transformers and Surf’s Up on the horizon in the next couple of months, you’ll be seeing more of him than you know what to do with. And of course there are those persistent, albeit as-yet-unconfirmed, rumors that he is going to play Indy's son in Indiana Jones 4. But before all that, there will be the new suspense thriller Disturbia.
In Disturbia, LaBeouf plays Kale, an average teenager with a happy suburban life that suddenly gets turned upside down when his father is killed in a car accident with Kale at the wheel. Kale escapes physically unscathed, but the emotional trauma changes him into a withdrawn, distant kid. When a particularly insensitive teacher brings up Kale’s dad, Kale punches him out and winds up being put under house arrest for the summer as punishment.
While getting to hang out all day with cable and X-box and no responsibilities might seem like a dream come true, Kale quickly gets cabin fever. He alleviates the boredom by spying on his neighbors, especially Ashley (Sarah Roemer), the hot new girl next door. It doesn’t take long for him to notice more than meets the eye at several other houses, as well—including one neighbor whom he begins to suspect of being a serial killer wanted by the police.
The concept of Disturbia doesn’t necessarily sound like much to crow at. Obviously, the guy trapped in his house with nothing to do but watch the “reality TV” that is his neighbors' lives is a retake on Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. And as appealing as serial killer thrillers always seem, they rarely deliver on their promise.
Disturbia, however, is a lot more than initially meets the eye. From the poster, somehow I thought that LaBeouf’s character was going to be a Dylan Klebold type – using those hi-fi binoculars to scope out who he was going to gun down at school. I guess it helps to watch the trailer, because obviously that is not the case. But then, the trailer makes Disturbia look like it is one big shock-fest through and through, and that isn't quite accurate, either.
The reality is that in addition to borrowing the idea behind Rear Window, Disturbia pays homage to Hitchcock in its sense of pacing, as well, in its use of the Hitchcock's signature slow build. Director D.J. Caruso (The Salton Sea) said that in addition to liking thrillers, he was also inspired by the movies of Cameron Crowe and John Hughes, and you can tell. Disturbia delves deeper into the characters of Kale and his two best friends than in your standard thriller, and the movie's midsection seems like an idyll where you're pulling for the guy to get the girl.
Don’t get me wrong – there are still lots of little starts in there to scare you and remind you what you’re there for every time you are lulled into submission throughout. But they’re nothing compared with the end when the movie suddenly explodes into its thriller crescendo.
LaBeouf, Roemer, and Aaron Yoo (Ronnie) all create realistic, identifiable teens. And David Morse is perfect casting as the creepy neighbor.
Screenwriters Christopher Landon and Carl Ellsworth did a pretty decent job with the story, especially how they dealt with getting a basically good kid stuck under house arrest. Even though Landon and Ellsworth tried to deal with them, there are still some plot holes, but you kind of don't mind them with all the action going on. And yes, Disturbia is one of those movies when you are screaming at the characters to just call 911. But overall it held together much better than I expected and is a good, fun, interesting movie.
So good and fun, in fact, that it kind of feels like a summer movie. I’m going to suspect that Disturbia is coming out now so that it isn’t actually the Summer of Shia, with him in several movies up against each other. But whatever the cause, bring a date with you to the theater – because if your experience is anything like mine, you're going to be clinging to each other in your seats.