Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Julian (Mike Vogel) is sitting in the tub minding his own damn business when he gets a frantic call from his best friend Terry (Danny Pino). Julian has to do some coercing to get out of Terry exactly what Terry has done, but once he’s finally able to pull out of Terry what he has done, or what he’s about to do, Julian’s blood chills down to zero as writer / director Alex Merkin’s small noir-style thriller ‘Across the Hall’ has begun to play out its hand.

The problem with Terry is that he seems to suffer from chronic paranoia. He is recently engaged and insanely in love with a woman named June (Brittany Murphy), with an emphasis on ‘insane’. Terry seems to think that June is always cheating on him, concerns which he consistently voices to his best friend Julian with Julian pointing out that these fears never amount to nothing but needless worry, but this time he followed her. Yeah… I missed you so much I followed you today baby… now close your mouth because you’re cold busted. Terry followed June to a sleazy motel, the kind that rents rooms by the hour, and bribed our bellman (Brad Greenquist) to tell him which room June has checked into so he could take the room across the hall and spy on her. A hotel that rents by the hour that has bellmen and porters. This must be a really, really upscale town that this movie takes place in. Julian becomes even more concerned with his good friends behavior when Terry informs him that he busted into his house, took his pistol and plans to run across the hall to dispense some old school justice on his cheating fiancée and whoever this clown is she’s cheating with the minute this dude show up.

Being a good friend Julian advices Terry to chill out and wait until he gets there before he does anything stupid, and so Julian jumps out of the tub, jumps into his car and races to this run down hotel only to find that he’s arrived a tad bit too late because somebody’s already dead on the floor and somebody else is tied up in a chair on the verge of dying. It has been said that a good friend will help you move while a great friend will help you move a body. As the situation plays out in the movie, which really has only begun, we will find out how good a friend Julian really is.

Coolly efficient and effective would be the best way I can describe the kind of movie experience ‘Across the Hall’ turned out to be. The film is methodically paced, and truth be told, as it starts out, it might be too methodical in its pacing as it takes a while for things to get moving and for the narrative to take a hold of its audience. Or at least this audience member. But to the credit of writer / director Alex Merkin he was simply laying out his chess pieces and laying the groundwork for the larger story that was to come. The story itself is told in a non linear fashion which gives us bits and pieces of the mystery in front of us holding back the twist and turns of the overall plot, though it will become fairly obvious rather early what the first major plot turn is before it becomes revealed to us, but nonetheless it was still very effective in the way it was presented.

After this event passes our thriller hangs on a ‘did he or did he not’ type of mystery in which the director was much more effective in hiding his hand, raised the tension level of this film considerably and raised the overall value of this movie from an exercise in cool style to a bonafide, well executed old school thriller. While the characters that inhabited our small spartanly furnished world were rather broad in the way in which they were drawn, Terry’s a wild eyed loon, Julian is slick and sleazy while June is a tramp, the actors playing these characters were quite good, as they would have to be since the whole movie rests on their ability to sell us on the sequence of events and make it all at least somewhat believable, and that they were able to do.

There were a couple of things I was confused about such as how certain characters got to certain physical points without detection, things that I’m sure would probably have been more clear if I were paying closer attention, and there is the occasional character action or plot element which falls out of the realm of reasonable logic and falls into the realm of a plot device to insure certain things coming about a certain way, but these elements did benefit from not being overtly obvious in the way they were presented and as such didn’t detract from the overall feel and style of this film that much.

Despite a somewhat sluggish beginning, ‘Across the Hall’ is one part smart suspense, one part sleight of hand and two parts style and completely effective in delivering a very solid, great looking and well acted movie watching experience.

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