Tom and Anna Wright (James Franco and Kate Hudson) are a financially-struggling American couple giving UK life a try. The money from a robbery-gone-wrong ends up in their basement and they make the ill-fated decision to hold onto it, unaware that the cash will bring two separate criminal gangs and a worn police detective charging into their lives.
Good People plays out like a combination of A Simple Plan and Shallow Grave, though it has neither the cold irony of the former nor the sweaty shiftiness of the latter. Still, director Henrik Ruben Genz’s stateside debut is a capable thriller with sequences of strong suspense.
The opening scene may in fact be the strongest. Jack Witkowski (Sam Spruell) and crew prepare to rob a stash of heroin from drug importer Khan (Omar Sy). Genz stages nearly all of the action from the vantage point of the criminals’ car, losing sight of them as they fly headlong into the strip club where the heist will take place. The series of looks and hesitations and some nice wide frames effectively elongate the prologue scene, and the silence and off-screen sound add a good deal of tension.
The screenplay, adapted by Kelly Masterson from Marcus Sakey’s novel, is tight and efficient. There’s very little wasted space here: all paths converge, all loose ends tie together, and every character has his or her weight. While Spruell plays with a nice, hard edge, his Witkowski is nothing new: a violent man who loves violence and money. Sy has a bit more to work with in Khan, despite his lesser screentime, and the French actor continues to build an impressive American body of work post-The Intouchables, giving Khan a quiet menace that is ultimately less predictable than Witkowski’s manic volatility.
There’s not much to ultimately dislike about Good People. Hudson and Franco pull off their leads, and Tom Wilkinson is unsurprisingly good as Halden, the detective out to avenge his daughter’s overdose. Genz and cinematographer Jørgen Johansson, meanwhile, lens a London at once gritty and banally suburban. Still, what wants to pass for a twisting, turning film is much more a solid, well-made thriller that verges on the straightforward and predictable. Nothing wrong with that.
— Neal Dhand