Arlington Road (1999) / Thriller-Action
MPAA Rated: R for violence and some language
Running Time: 117 min.
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Hope Davis, Robert Gossett
Director: Mark Pellington
Screenplay: Ehren Kruger
Review published January 9, 2000
ARLINGTON ROAD is an extremely farfetched thriller that delivers loads of tension but little logic. If all it took to be a great thriller were edge-of-your-seat theatrics, ARLINGTON ROAD would be a sure-classic, as the impressively taut direction by Pellington and believable performances by Bridges and Robbins turn up the potboiler of intensity. However, a ridiculously constructed script, along with a plot that requires at least a dozen infinitesimally unlikely events to have happen perfectly according to plan, will most likely leave you with a mental hangover when it's all through.
Here is that plot: A professor on terrorism begins to suspect his new neighbor may be up to something when he discovers that he was arrested as a teenager for an attempted bombing and is now exhibiting strange behavior. But are these thoughts really warranted or merely the delusions of a paranoid psychotic whose wife died years ago trying to bust alleged terrorists who turned out innocent?
ARLINGTON ROAD does deal with terrorist bombings, but there isn't much in the way of political bent. The government isn't the enemy, nor the disenfranchised who blow up buildings and kill innocent people. Rather, it's the media who is the target of the criticism, and its efforts to jump to conclusions to make people content and feel safe.
It's certainly watchable, and it is very good in spots, but derivative thriller plot devices and ludicrous leaps of logic mar what could very well have been a great modern-day suspenser. In the end, only the quality work by Pellington, who shows he has a definite future behind the camera, makes this worthy of any notice.
©2000 Vince Leo