Psychotic neighbors are the latest riff on the urban paranoia theme. Most distinctive element here proves to be Kevin Spacey’s over-the-top performance as the smarmy newcomer to the block, who ultimately lures his risk-aversive neighbor (Kevin Kline) into a proposed wife-swap that leads to the baseball-bat murder of Spacey’s wife (Rebecca Miller) as part of an elaborate insurance scam.
Kline’s character ends up framed for the murder, forcing him to try to decipher the mystery and win back his own wife (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), who has conveniently and rather inexplicably fled to Spacey.
Pic suffers from an absurdity level that somewhat undermines its chills as well as its few geniune laughs. Director Alan J. Pakula can’t seem to decide whether this is a legitimate drama or conventional thriller – of the cheap scare variety.
Perhaps because of those narrative flaws, neither Kline nor Mastrantonio (reunited after The January Man) are particularly distinguished here.
Miller oozes sex appeal, but the real stand-out is Spacey, who established his inordinate skill playing psychopaths with a disarming sense of humor back during TV’s Wiseguy.