Never rob from someone you know. That is the lesson here in Julius Berg’s The Owners. A film that loses itself too often, but still manages to get away with it. Not a knock out hit, but it might knock your granny’s teeth out.
One night in 1990s rural England, a retired doctor Richard Huggins (Sylvester McCoy) and his wife Ellen (Rita Tushingham) return home to find three robbers from their community Nathan (Ian Kenny), Gaz (Jake Curran), Terry (Andrew Ellis) and Nathans unwitting girlfriend Mary (Maisie Williams). When Gaz destroy the home looking for a safe that Terry’s mum states are in the house. Richard and Ellen are held, hostage. Once the inevitable infighting between the young men starts everyone’s night begins to turn into a nightmare.
The Owners struggles once it pretty quickly removes the main possible antagonist from the picture. By removing this chaotic character we are safe to assume what is going to happen next to the robbers. The film keeps other twists to the side, but possible needed to introduce those quicker as by having Mary be on the pulse of the environment she has unwittingly found herself in, the audience has to sit through as she tries to persuade others and find a way out.
With that said, The Owners has thrills in this home invasion gone wrong horror that work very well and narratively they work. In a scene where characters are forced to sit down for some tea, an abundance of tension is raised, yet never taken forward. Mary is desperately finding ways to excuse herself but cannot due to her fear of her captures. Terry is sitting oblivious to everything, though we will come back to him shortly. This tension comes back continually, but it never builds where it left off and feels as though it is starting from scratch every time.
For reasons unknown, the aspect ratio tightens to a box during part of the final act. This firmly feels like an excuse to bring some added style to the picture, but it is totally misplaced and lost here. It brings more frustration to the audience that would have already been built up. If you are going to switch up ratios in your movie, make it matter. Here it simply doesn’t. Just a general rule of thumb for filmmakers. The only inkling for the reasoning behind this is that as the realisation of how doomed we would-be robbers are full sets in they feel the sudden claustrophobia of their situation. Otherwise, it is a mystery for this change that serves no purpose to proceedings.
The one true flaw of The Owners is the character of Terry, who throughout the film frustrates. Be it his nervous attitude and how he is truly a fish out of water when the people he has led to this elderly couple’s home begin to become violent and angry. This dull demeanour carries on throughout the film as he is continually caught watching TV, believing anyone older than him and going with what he is told as long as he is told nicely. When his supposed arc comes and he lashes out verbally to Mary, it is forced. His subplot isn’t necessary and at worst distracting from the overall piece. If there was a reason for him to be so stupid and to spin his wheels as much, it seemingly isn’t shared enough here. A character who just spins his wheels. This by the way should not be a knock on Andrew Ellis, who does make you sympathise with Terry due to his performance. But his character is written so poorly is distracts as much as the change in aspect ratio.
All of the performances are great here. While Jake Currans Gaz is written to needless destroy everything in his sight and has the shortest fuse known to man and goes bonkers to get into that safe. Curran’s intensity helps brings an extra layer to The Owners and brings the early tension. McCoy and Tushingham steal the show with their both heartbreaking and horrific characters. Ellen’s dementia is a constant thread throughout the film and we see how much Richard has to look after her. So when they turn, it is all the more rewarding. Maisie Williams brings her ever-growing confidence as an actress and carries the more dramatic parts of the film to bring us a fully fleshed-out character who we actively root for. She is as close as innocent in the whole scheme of things and we want her to get out of this horrible situation,
For a film with so many good performances, The Owners is held back by an overstuffed script that has needless subplots. However, there is a lot to enjoy here in what becomes a light horror thriller.
Signature Entertainment presents The Owners is on Digital Platforms 22nd February and DVD 1st March.
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