Movie Review: Luke Kleintank finds Jonathan Rhys Meyers is more than just “The Good Neighbor”

Jonathan Rhys Meyers in a “Single White Female” thriller set in Latvia? Yeah, I could buy that. The guy cultivates an “Oh, I’m capable of things” vibe, and that’s put to good use in “The Good Neighbor,” a Stephan Rick remake of his German film, “Unter Nachbarn.”

Luke Kleintank of “Man in the High Castle” plays an American reporter following an old editor friend to a news service based in scenic, under-filmed Riga. But the house that editor (Bruce Davison) sets David up in is a bit remote. That means the new guy, with a little command of Latvian and no gift for getting the boss’s old BMW running, will be leaning on the loner next door.

Robert (Meyers) is a mobile nurse who was partly-raised in London. And one of the first things out of his mouth should set David’s Spidey-sense tingling. The nursing business is booming, Robert suggests.

“A lot of people come to Riga to die.”

A little car repair help later and they’re out for drinks in a downtown club, where David meets a London tourist, gets a little tipsy, and accidentally runs over her on their way home. Not to worry, there’s a nurse in the passenger’s seat, right? More than he knows.

“We can’t call anybody. You’ve been drinking. This is murder!

And thus begins the cover-up that David is more a witness to than an eager participant in, something which doesn’t help his rising feelings of guilt as he is A) assigned to cover the hit-and-run by the European Press Network and B) the dead woman’s sister (Eloise Smyth of Hulu’s “Harlots”) shows up to lean on him to get to the bottom of this, badger the police, etc.

Yes, coincidences rule the day in this story, but that contributes to its compactness. It’s a tight tale with a steadily-escalating threat level based on Robert’s growing obsession with his new “friend,” and the extreme efforts he’s more than eager to make to keep him and them “out of a Latvian prison.”

At this stage of his career, Meyers has but to suggest “intensely twisted” to get across the idea that this quiet nurse who paints tiny toy soldiers has something dark going on under the surface. A little moment here, a cross-the-line gesture there and we get it.

“Single Latvian Male.”

Kleintank’s playing the broader story arc here, a guy who listens to the “We have to protect each other, we have to rely on each other” speech and treats the victim’s sister brusquely and dismissively until compassion and/or attraction kick in. That distraction may slow his growing alarm at steps he sees Robert take, and ones he has no idea he’s taking.

Thrillers like these play out in a set of fairly generic ways — predictably. But when the cast is good and the focus is narrowed to two people who might be three, with every outsider a new “threat” of discovery summarily dealt with, it works.

And in using his vulnerable-but-can-be-scary baggage subtly, Meyers makes our buy-in easy and the “What is he capable of?” menace palpable, right from that first tell-all line.

“A lot of people come to Riga to die.”

Rating: R for violence and language

Cast: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Luke Kleintank, Eloise Smyth and Bruce Davison.

Credits: Directed by Stephan Rick, scripted by Ross Partridge, based on a German film scripted by Silja Clemens and Stephan Rick. A Screen Media release.

Running time: 1:37

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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