A newly divorced woman falls for a younger man who has recently moved in across the street from her, but their torrid affair soon takes a dangerous turn.
Not since the early days of Friday nights on Channel 5 have erotic thrillers had so much coverage. Hot on the heels of ‘50 Shades of Grey‘ comes the J-Lo powered, micro-budgeted ‘The Boy Next Door’. Made on a shoestring for $4m, this movie arrives in Britain having already made back its budget tenfold in the US, seemingly despite terrible reviews and surprise that this straight-to-DVD fodder has made the big screen at all.
The plot is by the numbers – Claire (Jennifer Lopez) is a lonely, single mum whose husband she kicked out following her discovery of an affair with his secretary. Her son Kevin (Ian Nelson) is a dweeb who is incapable of helping around the home, chatting up girls or providing basic acting skills. Luckily, moving in next door is generic hunk Noah (Ryan Guzman playing a 19 year old even though he’s 27 and looks 30) who fixes cars with his shirt off, becomes best buds with Kevin and reads classic literature in his spare time. He romances Claire while Kevin is away and this leads to a cringing sex scene followed by Noah going full bunny boiler when Claire realizes she shouldn’t be romping with teenagers, especially not ones who are in her lessons at the local high school (did I mention we’re supposed to believe J-Lo is a literature professor!?). A particularly comical moment comes when Noah, showing his sensitive side, gives Claire a gift of a ‘first edition’ of Homer’s The Iliad. A FIRST EDITION of a book that is over 3,000 years old. Yet Claire (a PROFESSOR of LITERATURE) is bowled over by this and it ultimately leads to her seduction.
The film is full of comically bad acting, heavily signposted ‘twists’ and ridiculous dialogue. Director Rob Cohen’s CV is one of the worst you’ll ever see (xXx, Alex Cross, The Mummy 3) and he does nothing to redeem himself here. The film’s final setpiece is incredibly rushed with the twists we’d guessed at in the first half explained in rapid succession, leading to zero tension and indeed, zero empathy for any of the characters. The only relief was the brevity of the film’s 90 minute running time.
The fact that this film has turned a not-insignificant profit means we will likely be seeing more erotic thrillers and, depressingly, more from Rob Cohen. Let’s pray that the barrel has been scraped and, if we are indeed in a second era of eroticism, we can move towards the intelligent thrillers we saw in the late 80s & early 90s from the likes of Fatal Attraction and Disclosure. Even Channel 5 would turn their noses at this. Bring back Red Shoe Diaries.
Review by Richard Mason
Directed By: Rob Cohen
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, Ian Nelson, John Corbett and Kristin Chenoweth