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Film review: The Gift – actor-turned-director Joel Edgerton surprises with powerful psychological thriller

Edgerton's directorial debut is a polished package

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 October, 2015, 12:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 October, 2015, 12:01pm

The directorial debut from Australian actor Joel Edgerton (Warrior, Exodus: Gods and Kings) twists an awkward encounter with an old high-school acquaintance into a cracking psychological thriller that offers some genuine surprises.

Taking on the creepy role of socially awkward “Gordo the Weirdo” himself, while casting funny man Jason Bateman (Arrested Development, Horrible Bosses) as the over-achieving former school bully, Egerton manages to sneak a few surprises into The Gift’s efficiently wrapped package.

Shortly after landing a top job in Los Angeles and moving into a lavish Hollywood Hills home, Simon (Bateman) has a chance run-in with a former classmate (Edgerton). When Gordo starts showing up at their house unannounced, Simon is wary, but his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) welcomes their new friend. Then Gordo starts crossing boundaries, both real and figurative, and digging up long-buried secrets.

Tipping its hat to everything from Hitchcock to Fatal Attraction and the South Korean revenge thrillers of Park Chan-wook, The Gift – which Edgerton also wrote – establishes a familiar dynamic between Bateman’s alpha male and his own slightly unhinged victim, only to build towards a finale more wilfully downbeat than some viewers might be prepared for.

While Hall ensures that Robyn is more than simply a trophy to be fought over, brings nuance and vulnerability to her increasingly put-upon character, it is Edgerton who deserves the plaudits here. His work both in front of and behind the camera results in a polished genre offering that takes genuine risks and ends with a gut punch of an ending.

The Gift opens on October 15