Movie Review: Creepy Rich Kid Becomes a Nightmare for “The Tutor”

“The Tutor” is an engaging, well-acted and suspenseful thriller that stumbles through a string of plot holes on its way to a predictably unsatisfying ending.

It toys with class, privilege and the injustices of crime and punishment and only seems remotely plausible thanks to the big twist in the finale. It never makes as much sense as it might, but it does get us going as the outrages pile up and debts demand to be paid by the finale.

Garrett Hedlund has the title role. Ethan is a scruffy, bespectacled tutor working through a New York service that caters to the scions of the well-to-do. An opening montage shows him at work, flashing flash cards, asking questions and trying to hold the attention of his distracted, bratty entitled pupils.

The sketchy, strip-club-loving boss of this operation (Joseph Castillo-Midyett) rings him up with a dream gig. Someone has requested his services. He’ll have to stay at their Long Island mansion (actually in Birmingham, Alabama) for a week “trying out” for the family. But the rate is $2500 a day.

As he and girlfriend Annie (Victoria Justice) have a baby on the way, let’s get to work.

Teenaged Jackson, played by Noah Schnapp of “Stranger Things,” seems smart enough. He has no problem with the evaluation tests. But pale, with slicked-back hair and an off-putting intensity, Jackson gives off serious “American Psycho” vibes.

When he lets slip that he knows Annie is pregnant, alarm bells tinkle. When he throws money around to see if Ethan can be “bought” into blowing off a day’s lessons, those bells should ring louder. The creepy “cousin” and other entitled and 20ish teen hangers-on on the property — with only a butler and a chauffeur as “adults” — all but seal Ethan’s fate.

But what kind of game is this pasty-faced creep planning?

Hedlund serves up mis-directed educational achievement with a hint of corruption as Ethan, a guy who been around and should see red flags in the attempts to hook him up with some compliant young woman, even if he isn’t hearing those alarm bells.

Justice’s character is entirely too credulous, a woman in a five-year relationship with the father of her baby more than willing to judge him, believe the worst that this stranger Jackson says about him, and all based on the red flags she should have seen in him all along, if what Jackson is saying is true.

Lines are crossed and intrigues added, and then things spiral towards an inevitable denouement.

Director Jordan Ross (“Thumper”) upsets expectations somewhat with the casting. But not enough to make this make sense or play as smoothly as you’d hope.

By the closing credits, we’re all tutored-up with no place to vent.

Rating: R, violence, profanity

Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Victoria Justice and Noah Schnapp.

Credits: Directed by Jordan Ross, scripted by Ryan King. A Vertical release.

Running time: 1:32


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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