by Jeff Schultz

Jason Bateman is truly a protean actor. He can give an incandescent performance in a comedy that all but blinds his co-stars (SMOKIN’ ACES), then find quiet dramatic power, as here, in a movie that takes a sharp turn halfway through, allowing us to watch Bateman steadily morph into the person the mystery’s unraveling shows him to truly be. The naturalism of the acting — strongly echoed by Rebecca Hall (Sir Peter Hall’s daughter, but really, the love child of Jennifer Connelly and Joyce Carol Oates) as Jason’s wife — gives heft to this stalkeresque thriller. Killer sets: a Midcentury Modern house (in Sherman Oaks), demonstrating once again that you have a 300% better chance of being stalked if your home has floor to ceiling glass windows. And we get to see what a corner office in City National Plaza (the former Arco Towers) looks like. I’d call THE GIFT more unsettling than scary, but it made me tense. Joel Edgerton is a bit of a bland “villain” (those quotes are important). But as a (first-time feature) director he keeps the screws turned.

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