Review: ‘The Owners’ (the not-so best laid plans)

You think you know someone: the movie.

One late afternoon in the English countryside, ruffian Nathan (Ian Kenny) plots with yeggman Gaz (Jake Curran) and tag-along Terry (Andrew Ellis) over an easy score: a secret safe inside an elderly couple’s home; all they need to do is wait for their marks to leave. Their car is borrowed from Mary (Maisie Williams), who comes looking for it when her boyfriend Nathan fails to return it before she goes to work. When a critical omitted detail foils their original smash-and-grab plan, the would-be opportunists regroup with a new strategy — waiting for the good Dr. Hussein (Sylvester McCoy) and his wife Ellen (Rita Tushingham) to return home — but that’s only a preview of things about to go awry.

Similar to the premise of Don’t Breathe and dozens of similar plots, this story could be painted as the haves vs. the have-nots sorting themselves out… except it’s clearly the young taking advantage of their elders. Nothing initially suggests the older couple have done anything to warrant being robbed other than having something worth stealing, but there wouldn’t much of a point to this setup without a transgression. What the fans of these kinds of thrillers really want to know is just how badly have these kids underestimated their so-called targets?

The adage “looks can be deceiving” comes into full play along with “biting off more than you can chew.” It becomes clear quickly that the smallish-town villagers all know or know of one another, having affected one another’s lives in various ways. This happily happens organically, framed by each having their assumptions about one another. While not as far-fetched as the intentionally ridiculous revelations of Hot Fuzz, it’s interesting the two biggest actors in the production are both “Doctor Who” alumni — diabolically cast in similarly opposing roles. The real crime committed herein is any British citizen ignoring the single rule all sci-fi fans know: never underestimate The Doctor.

It’s a testament to Maisie Williams’ prowess as an actor that she seems as plausibly threatened in this film’s setup as she does being the deadliest character in “Game of Thrones.” Likewise, the range of Sylvester McCoy shouldn’t surprise anyone, but his mild-mannered turn is eerily similar to Ian Holm kinds of roles such as From Hell. The real surprise is Rita Tushingham’s Ellen, who manages to be underestimated by both the characters and the audience as well. Make no mistake; this cast elevates standard thriller fare into something far creepier than one might imagine, even if the final outcome feels a bit muddled.

The rest of the characters appear a bit disposable and the big reveal isn’t terribly difficult to guess, but there’s plenty of window-dressing while playing against type to make the film as a whole worthwhile. It’s never a surprise when stupid characters act stupid and receive their just reward, but it’s inversely nerve-racking seeing smart characters struggling to succeed when the odds are stacked against them. You do know how games of cat-and-mouse usually end, don’t you?

The Owners is Not Rated for injecting new blood into an old trope and allowing it to congeal for a while.

Three skull recommendation out of four

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