×

The Good Son

The "Home Alone" kid as an amoral, psychotic killer? What next, Barney leveling Tokyo? The bizarre prospect of Macaulay Culkin as a latter-day "bad seed" should prompt enough curiosity to generate initial box office visits, but this peculiar thriller doesn't deliver enough jolts to leave the audience screaming.

With:
Henry - Macaulay Culkin Mark - Elijah Wood Susan - Wendy Crewson Jack - David Morse Wallace - Daniel Hugh Kelly Alice - Jacqueline Brookes Connie - Quinn Culkin

The “Home Alone” kid as an amoral, psychotic killer? What next, Barney leveling Tokyo? The bizarre prospect of Macaulay Culkin as a latter-day “bad seed” should prompt enough curiosity to generate initial box office visits, but this peculiar thriller doesn’t deliver enough jolts to leave the audience screaming, and without a kid audience this R-rated entry should make a relatively quick trip to the foster care of homevideo.

Though Culkin will accrue most of the ink — and no doubt a few complaints about casting this childhood icon as the embodiment of evil, as if he needed to expand his repertoire — the action centers around another prominent moppet, Elijah Wood (“Avalon,””Forever Young”), playing a young boy with very bad luck.

Not only does Mark (Wood) watch his mother die at an early age, but he then gets shipped off to spend a couple of weeks with his aunt and uncle, only to discover that he’s sharing a room with a prepubescent psychopath.

Popular on Variety

At first, Henry (Culkin) just seems a bit eccentric, but the stunts gradually become more outrageous, until he hints that he did away with his brother and tries to off his baby sister (Quinn Culkin, making her debut as yet another sprig, along with brothers Macaulay and Kieran, on the Culkin money tree).

Mark tentatively turns to adults for help but no one wants to believe him — including Henry’s mom (Wendy Crewson), eventually a target herself of Henry’s supposition that once you’ve done wrong and gotten away with it, you’re capable of anything.

Working from a script by novelist Ian McEwan, producer-director Joseph Ruben (“Sleeping With the Enemy”) employs some of the same hackneyed thriller elements but runs across the pitfall of mixing suspense with day care.

Culkin’s cold, dispassionate performance will evoke too many laughs of the derisive kind, not just the genre’s characteristic release of nervous tension.

Indeed, the filmmakers hold back too long in establishing the depths to which Henry will sink, and when the action does boil over, it too often feels silly — if, in some respects, strangely compelling, particularly the climax.

The film also pushes the rather dispiriting conclusion that there’s such a thing as inherent evil with a capital “E”– but for convenience’s sake, without examining the more chilling aspects of that hypothesis.

Culkin projects soullessness, but not the darkness we need to see behind those eyes. Wood fares better in the easier role of Mark, while Crewson (“The Doctor”) is the only standout among the adult roles.

With its low-caliber thrills, “The Good Son’s” greatest asset may be its spectacularly shot scenery by cinematographer John Lindley, from the mesas of Arizona to the snowy climes of New England. Unfortunately, that’s also about the only territory of any note the pic explores.

The Good Son

Production: A 20th Century Fox release. Produced by Mary Anne Page, Joseph Ruben. Executive producers, Ezra Swerdlow, Daniel Rogosin. Co-producer, Michael Steele. Directed by Ruben. Screenplay, Ian McEwan.

Crew: Camera (DeLuxe color), John Lindley; editor, George Bowers; music, Elmer Bernstein; production design, Bill Groom; art direction, Rusty Smith; set decoration, George DeTitta Jr.; costume design, Cynthia Flynt; sound (Dolby), Susumu Tokunow; unit production manager, Thomas Kane; assistant director, Steele; second unit director/stunt coordinator, Jack Gill; casting, Deborah Aquila. Reviewed at the UA Westwood Theater, L.A., Sept. 15, 1993. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 87 min.

With: Henry - Macaulay Culkin Mark - Elijah Wood Susan - Wendy Crewson Jack - David Morse Wallace - Daniel Hugh Kelly Alice - Jacqueline Brookes Connie - Quinn Culkin

More Film

  • Cocoon of Stone

    Japan’s Wowow Makes Move Into Theatrical Releasing (EXCLUSIVE)

    Japanese pay-TV leader Wowow is to expand into theatrical releasing. The company made its theatrical buying debut this week at the Berlin Film Festival’s accompanying European Film Market. With linear channels and a movie-driven on-demand service, Wowow is already one of the leading consumers of movie content in Japan, and boasts 2.8 million subscribers. These [...]

  • Stormtroopers'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' film

    What Disney’s CEO Shake-Up Means for Its Movie Business

    After rocking a quiet Tuesday afternoon with news of leadership changes at the very top of the Walt Disney Corporation, attention has turned to respective divisions at the Hollywood superpower — and to what the side-stepping of Bob Iger and ascension of new CEO Bob Chapek might mean for the future. This includes Disney’s Goliath [...]

  • Jeremy Renner

    John Ottman Hosts Jeremy Renner, Michael Keaton, More at 'Aiding Australia' Benefit

    Film editor and composer John Ottman, who won an Oscar for “Bohemian Rhapsody” in 2019, hosted members of the film, television and music communities at the “Aiding Australia” charity dinner and concert held at his West Hollywood home on Sunday evening (Feb. 23). The benefit raised funds to help in the recovery of fire-ravaged Australia, [...]

  • Eric Bana The Dry

    Film News Roundup: Eric Bana Boards 'Mike the Bike' Motorcycle Movie

    In today’s film news roundup, Eric Bana and Melissa Leo launch movie projects, Paradigm names four agents, Michael B. Jordan is being honored and Hilary Swank’s “Fatale” gets a release date. PROJECT LAUNCHES Eric Bana’s Pick Up Truck Pictures and Robert Connolly’s Arenamedia have secured rights to the “Mike the Bike” motorcycle story. Bana will [...]

  • A still from Miles Davis: Birth

    Film Editor Lewis Erskine on Finding the Rhythm for Miles Davis Doc 'Birth of the Cool'

    On-the-beat editing for the documentary “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool” comes courtesy of Lewis Erskine who brings rhythm to the images apace with that perfect flow of the jazz icon’s horn. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019 and earned a nomination at the NAACP’s 2020 Image Awards for outstanding documentary [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein Trial and Verdict

    European Industry Buoyed by Weinstein Verdict: 'Things Have Irrevocably Changed'

    Global film and TV executives, including “Elizabeth” producer Alison Owen and “Shakespeare in Love” producer David Parfitt, have spoken out about Harvey Weinstein’s guilty verdict, calling it a “seismic” victory that will bring about immutable change. Monday’s long-awaited outcome to the U.S. trial, which saw Weinstein convicted of sexual assault and third-degree rape, has been [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content