When Strangers Appear

Despite his clever directorial flourishes, Australian director Scott Reynolds can't make something fresh and new out of a plot that was old in the silent movie era. Beth (Radha Mitchell) maintains her family diner on a remote highway, even though business has been ruined by a new interstate. But the eatery is about to fill up with unwelcome customers. Having...read more

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Reviewed by Robert Pardi
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Despite his clever directorial flourishes, Australian director Scott Reynolds can't make something fresh and new out of a plot that was old in the silent movie era. Beth (Radha Mitchell) maintains her family diner on a remote highway, even though business has been ruined by a new interstate. But the eatery is about to fill up with unwelcome customers. Having been raped by popular local Sheriff Bryce (Kevin Anderson) and harassed by his wife, Beth is attuned to the suffering of outcasts. So when wounded drifter Jack (Barry Watson) wanders in and says he's being pursued, Beth's instinct is to protect him. Three more men posing as vacationing surfers show up soon after and interrogate Beth about the car Jack abandoned outside the diner. The thoroughly freaked-out Jack cowers while Beth plays dumb. The trio's leader, Peter (Josh Lucas), eventually confesses that he stabbed Jack after he caught Jack ripping off their van. Attracted to Peter and disturbed by Jack's erratic behavior, Beth nonetheless entrusts Jack to her friend, Dr. Leonard (Steven Ray), whose found butchered shortly after. Jack's credibility plummets. Beth doesn't trust Sheriff Bryce, so she starts relying on Peter's cool analysis of events; after finding a bottle of drugs used to treat schizophrenia with Jack's name on the label, Beth begins to doubt her initial assessment of the situation. Then Peter claims that a disc in Jack's possession belongs to him. Who are these three strangers hassling the increasingly bewildered Jack? The answer to that question propels Beth through several homicides, a gas station explosion and a run for her life. This damsel-in-distress thriller maintains a suspenseful atmosphere throughout but is amrred by a preposterous ending. Mitchell's feisty presence compensates somewhat for the numerous red herrings.

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