Rental, The

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 07/23/20 10:51:35

"BnB BS"
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

Marking the directorial debut of Dave Franco, “The Rental” is a film that starts off as a low-fi relationship drama in the vein of the work of Joe Swanberg (which makes sense since he co-wrote it with Franco), ends as a gory horror film and fails to impress at either end of the occasion.

As the film opens, tech start-up partners Mina (Sheila Vand) and Charlie (Dan Stevens) have decided to rent an AirBnB for the weekend to share with their respective romantic partners, Josh (Jeremy Allen White), who just happens to be Charlie’s brother, and Charlie’s wife Michelle (Alison Brie). Even before the two couples arrive at the oceanfront home, there is already tension—the Arabic Mina is upset that her offer for the house rental was rejected while Charlie’s was immediately accepted and she is not shy about confronting the man renting out the place (Toby Huss) about it. We have also observed that while only ostensibly business partners, Mina and Charlie have a connection that cannot be denied and when you combine an evening of drugs and booze, romantic partners who conk out too early and a hot tub out back, it is perhaps not too surprising what transpires between them. Over the course of the next day, Charlie and Mina try to deal with the ramifications of what they have done while trying to keep Josh and Michelle from finding out. Suffice it to say, certain discoveries are made that make that much harder to pull off than anticipated and just as tensions are about to explode between them, it is at that point that the film elects to make its big genre shift.

Now at this point in the proceedings, most viewers will be clamoring for such a switch because what has transpired up to that point has not been especially impressive. The screenplay is as threadbare as can be, Charlie and Mina are the only characters who are given even the slightest shadings (all we get from Josh is that he is a hothead, which is more than can be said about what we are able to discern about Michelle) and there is nothing that anyone says or does that will strike viewers as being representative of recognizable human behavior. Once Franco shifts into horror mode, he demonstrates a little more visual style than he had up to that point but other than that, all he has to offer is a few slasher movie tropes before a final revelation that is clearly meant to chill us to the bone but which is more likely to inspire reactions ranging from bored shrugs to grumblings of “WTF?” and not in the good way.

Because of the presence of people like Franco, Brie and Stevens, this film may stick out just enough from the rest of the VOD competition to inspired people to give it a chance. Don’t fall for it, however, because in the end, “The Rental” is hardly worth the price of one.

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