Damsel in distress story of a neo-noir variety adapted from his own novel by David Simpson. I have a strong feeling it will work better as the novel: not everything needs to end up in the film.
Dangerous to Know is a wannabe noir thriller, styled after the director’s David Fincher favorites. David Simpson – better known as a sci-fi novelist – has written, directed, edited, composed the music, and acted in this film, so you could say he’s put a lot into it; along with his wife Jennifer, executive producer and publicist.
The story is about Bridget (Bridget Graham) who has become obsessively dependent on her previously-loving boyfriend and tries to kill herself when he ends their relationship. A few weeks later, she’s spending time on her own in the countryside to recover properly and adjust to new medication which will help her shake off the unhealthy feelings. But is it healthy to go through this process on her own? Is she going to struggle with side-effects, nightmares; not to mention a prowler she (might have) imagined…?
Apart from Bridget, there are two other key characters: Jordan, her boyfriend (Andrew Robert Wilson); and Tom, her older brother (David Simpson), who has wavered between supporting Bridget and cutting her off over the years. The three are more than competent in their roles, but I’m convinced they would have fared much better with a faster-moving script. The characters are well written, all of them more complex than they first appear, but the plot was simply not complex enough to require over three hours of run time.
There are indeed some twists and turns, some scenes when it is impossible to know who to trust, deception and manipulation that fits well with the noir thriller style, and encouraged me to stay patient with the slow pace. But when the ultimate baddie is revealed, they turn out to be so arrogant (almost in a “no, Mr. Bond” kind of way), bragging about superior intelligence, higher purpose, and so on that it all became a little too silly. And Dangerous to Know wasn’t meant to be silly at all.
I think a major part of the problem was the adaptation of a novel to a screenplay by the author himself. What I have mentioned above, and indeed the pace may be suitable for a book (because of the way you read things at a different rate than they actually happen), but need to be adjusted for a film audience. Perhaps if the Simpsons hadn’t done so much in-house, they could have had had a reality check along the way about what was working, in two respects particularly. Firstly, the script could have been tightened to fill no more than two hours. Secondly, although I have no issue with the soundtrack Simpson wrote and produced, someone independent or with more experience could have streamlined it somewhat: the music rarely stopped, and often covered dialogue.
Neither the plot nor the characters were terribly original, either. Airport paperbacks – often turned into films, such as Before I Wake or Gone Girl – are full of similar unreliable narrators, manipulation, and melodramatic revelations. Dangerous to Know isn’t problematic throughout, mind you. The prologue really benefited from the time given to it (unlike much of what followed), and was truly tense; it’s a shame the tension eased once the antagonist revealed the nefarious plan. And I really liked the sets and location in general. I would very happily live in either of the gorgeous houses featured (as long as there’s a decent cinema nearby).
Dangerous to Know has its world premiere at FrightFest, October 2020.
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