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THE INTRUDER: Quaid goes full psychopath

Despite generally lousy reviews, I just had to catch “The Intruder” and see for myself whether Dennis Quaid could pull off a psychopathic villain.

The answer is yes, and very nicely too -- which is all the more impressive, as it’s tough to think of a single film in which this veteran has played a legitimate heavy.

The rest of the movie doesn’t quite live up to Quaid’s fine work, though it certainly does its job.

Usually when deciding whether to recommend a film, I simply ask whether folks who see it will get what they wanted -- and again the answer is yes, though “Intruder” doesn’t show much originality or imagination.

Quaid plays Charlie Peck, the seemingly likable owner of a quaint but sprawling multi-million-dollar home in Napa Valley. After selling this family estate to an upwardly mobile couple, Charlie can’t seem to stay away -- though his initial reappearances could be innocuous, perhaps even friendly: He tends the grounds, brings wine, gets invited for Thanksgiving and ultimately befriends the affable housewife.

Indeed, Quaid’s very likability drives these early scenes, as we legitimately wonder if -- and sometimes even hope that -- he’s actually as good-natured as he seems. It’d be nice if we could sit through movies like this without knowing the ultimate plotline -- but that’s just not why folks come to thrillers.

Since we know what’s in store, the film’s built-in dread factor holds attention pretty well -- though the standard plot tropes are often too predictable. And while the inevitable rock-em-sock-em climax is exciting, the final resolution feels boringly pedestrian. Surely there must have been something edgier that writer David Loughery and director Deon Taylor could have done to activate the brain along with heart-rate and respiration.

Meagan Good and Michael Ealy are solid as the couple, and their mid-film marital spat -- of which Charlie will take full advantage -- is surprisingly believable. “The Intruder” is also nicely photographed, with a strong feel for its Northern California locale.

Otherwise, though, the film is not terrific. But then, after a 45-year career encompassing roughly 100 roles, Quaid has earned the right to make a somewhat schlocky piece like this. He certainly seems to be having lots of fun with the part, and it’s almost as much fun to watch him.

As a long-time Quaid fan, that was good enough for me.

“The Intruder,”

directed by Deon Taylor

Run time: 102 mins.

* * 1/2 (out of four)

Rated PG-13 for violence, terror, some sexuality, language and thematic elements

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