Towards the end, “The Owners” goes to a place that doesn’t entirely make sense/wasn't set up properly enough to be believable. This would be enough to sink a movie but when your thriller/horror film fills its audience with this level of anxiety and fear, you can overlook a couple of blemishes.
Longtime friends Nathan (Ian Kenny), Mary (Maisie Williams), and Terry (Andrew Ellis) have concocted a plan to get rich quick and get out of their dead-end town. They’ve recruited Gaz (Jake Curran) to help them break into the Huggins’ home safe. When things go wrong, the elderly Dr. Huggins (Sylvester McCoy) and his wife Ellen (Rita Tushingham) are taken hostage. Things soon spiral out of control.
“The Owners” works because it sustains intense emotions throughout. There is no reason for you to care about Mary. She barely protests at the idea of robbing the elderly Huggins’. At least she’s more strong-willed than Terry, who constantly second-guesses everything and lets himself be pushed around. You like him a little bit more than Nathan, who makes it increasingly clear that he’s just a thug who's never been pushed far enough to show how awful he could be. The worst of the bunch is easily Gaz, who shows no empathy towards anyone at all. You wonder how the Huggins’ will fare because they're the antagonists. All the group needs is one push and their bonds of loyalty unravel. You want to see the thieves fail. If they all end up killing each other and the Huggins too, so be it. Good on Mr. Huggins for not caving in. His resistance makes you fantasize about what you’d say to make Terry turn on his friends. You’re mad. You’re scared. You want to see what’s coming next.
Then, the movie changes into something completely different. The biggest threat in the room is no longer Gaz and the Huggins now creep you out. Is it just stubbornness and anger making them uncooperative? Have you caught the interlopers' paranoia? How crazy is this going to get?
Unfortunately, it gets a little bit too crazy at the end. There are big coincidences and certain revelations make you go "but if they knew this… then why’d they do that? " I was too invested to care. I just needed to know what was next.
“The Owners” makes you feel a lot of things. As long as those emotions are going wild, you won't think about the technical details too much. It’d be a mistake not to comment on the performances, however. Jake Curran is extremely good as the blaring alarm that says “trouble” in every scene but you’ll forget him once Rita Tushingham gets going. She’s terrifying, partially because you're not sure whether she can ultimately be trusted or not.
A couple of recent thrillers also did what “The Owners” winds up doing, with a group of bad/“bad” people having a situation turn on them. The story isn't breaking any new grounds. Nonetheless, it’ll have your stomach in knots, wondering what’s coming next. (October 31, 2020)