October 16, 2014

Review: Dan Stevens Overstays His Welcome – 'The Guest'

Dan Stevens | The Guest

Downton Abbey actor Dan Stevens really transforms himself to play the titular role in this throwback to the heyday of action flicks celebrating the genre of stylish violence and moody acting. The Guest uses a bevy of cinematic tricks to slickly get across a basic tale of small-scale yet transfixing mayhem executed with delightful flair on the screen. You're Next director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett use the Drive mold of filmmaking to make a contemporary, all-American thriller with all the hallmarks of a recent era past.

The Guest is full of tense control as the cookie-cutter plot unfolds. A mysterious soldier visits and slowly integrates himself into the lives of a family grieving the death of their son, but his true identity and suspicious motives are slowly revealed amidst murder and violence in small-town America.

Wingard masters moment to moment suspense, building dramatic uneasiness, as he coaxes fine performances from Stevens and Maika Monroe. Stevens is full of charm and bravado as both the tough as nails, slick badass, and smiling boy next door. The film gets the whole deadly serious yet quietly hilarious vibe of style over substance culture with both cinematic subtlety and bold in-your-face filmmaking. It blends genre conventions fluidly with a refined skill ratcheting up the stakes and ridiculousness into the final act and big pay offset during Halloween, no less.

The Guest is a great love letter and look back to simply told yet mean and entertaining genre films of the 1980s and '90s. Wingard and Barrett map out Stevens' clean-cut, dreamy killing machine character superbly with all the confidence the camera can contain. It hits every action mark chock full of endearing clichés and sees them from a mile away twists and turns. The retro tone, look, and feel are all authentically vintage in sheen down to the killer, synth-heavy soundtrack. It's a real shoot 'em up.

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