Clive Owen’s daddy issues are getting out of hand.
The tall, rakish Brit seemed poised for superstardom after his breakout role in Mike Hodges’ hard-boiled 1998 Croupier. Handsome with a seedy air of menace, Owen smoked a lot of cigarettes and chose his words carefully, sardonically purring quips with a palpable disdain for everybody else onscreen, and by extension the entire world. We all thought he was going to be the next James Bond, or at the very least an international phenomenon.
But Clive Owen’s career seems to have fizzled out, to a point where he’s turning up in a knockoff, secondhand thriller like Intruders, which, after premiering at last September’s Toronto Film Festival, is finally making a brief pit stop in our area on its inevitable journey to a Redbox kiosk near you. As is too often the case these days, Owen gives a negligible performance, tamping down his natural gift for sly insinuation and instead trying to be the world’s greatest dad.
The first line of every biographical article about Owen always mentions that his father was a failed country-western singer who abandoned his family when young Clive was only 3 years old. While I usually hesitate to indulge in cheapjack Freudian explanations for why movie careers sometimes take oddball turns, there’s really not very much else to say about Intruders .
Look at all the times Owen has played a nurturing father figure, even begrudgingly shepherding the last bastion of humanity in his best role, Children of Men. He also baby-sat in Shoot ‘Em Up, tried to pass himself off as an ineffectual family man in the altogether regrettable Derailed, and then fumbled with single fatherhood in The Boys Are Back. And even though everybody else has, let us not forget Owen’s turn as the outraged father of a teen girl targeted by an Internet sex-predator in director David Schwimmer’s never-quite-released Trust.
Owen’s lone character trait in Intruders is that he really loves his 12-year-old daughter Mia (Ella Purnell)—who has been given the last name “Farrow” in what I can only assume is some sort of inside joke that doesn’t land. She’s found a child’s half-written short story hidden inside of a tree (the first of about a thousand visual tropes that director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo openly shoplifts from Guillermo Del Toro) that tells the tale of a nocturnal predator known as Hollow Face.
Bearing a possibly actionable similarity to the Dementors from the Harry Potter pictures, Hollow Face lacks a visage of his own, and thus haunts children’s bedrooms late at night looking for a face to rip off and make his own. Sure enough, as soon as young Mia recites the tale in her English class, this fantasy becomes reality, with this exceedingly slow-moving, not-particularly-frightening creature turning up in closets after bedtime.
In order to pad out roughly 20 minutes of story into a two-hour running time, we’ve got Hollow Face menacing another child, in another place. Somewhere in Spain, young Juan (Izan Conchero) also seems to have been writing this deeply underwhelming short story about a robed intruder without any features. His mother (Pilar Lopez de Alaya) turns to a local priest for counsel. Played by the always reliable Daniel Bruhl, he can’t decide if the child needs an exorcist or a psychologist, and if you can’t figure out by roughly the halfway point where Intruders’ disparate storylines are going to (shockingly) merge, then I envy you, because you have probably never been to a movie before.
But did I mention yet that Clive Owen really loves his daughter? Too much, in fact, according to a shrink played by the overqualified Kerry Fox. In a giant mouthful of bunk science that made me feel sorry for all the actors involved, it is explained that their bond is so intense the two are just sharing nightmares, presumably brought on by Owen’s PTSD after a workplace accident on a skyscraper rig that doubles as one of the most hilariously fake green-screen sets I have ever seen.
Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo made his bones with the WTF thriller Intacto, and did a shockingly sturdy job of turning the quickie cash-in sequel 28 Weeks Later into a pushy Iraq war analogy. His heart doesn’t seem to be in Intruders , which visually borrows a bunch of spare parts from Pan’s Labyrinth and The Others, creeping along to a foregone conclusion that doesn’t even make much sense.
In lieu of an actual climax, we’re stuck with Owen monotonously reminding his daughter how much he loves her and reassuring her that he will always be there. (We get it, dude.) It’s enough to make you long for the flinty, pissy Clive Owen of old, destined for stardom and unencumbered by children.
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Starring: Clive Owen, Carice van Houten and Izán Corchero