Uncovering Curiosities: Joseph Ruben’s PENTHOUSE NORTH

Actors don’t get any better than Michael Keaton – they really don’t. Keaton doesn’t work nearly enough and it is always welcome to see him on screen. He gets the lead role in director Joseph Ruben’s 2013 thriller Penthouse North (also known as Blindsided) and it again illustrates that Keaton is a cinematic force to be reckoned with – even when the material isn’t first class.

Ruben’s film is a constrained thriller, set within the confines of one New York City apartment. We follow a blind photographer (Michelle Monaghan) as she is terrorised by a pair of thieves (Keaton and Barry Sloane) who are searching for diamonds hidden in the apartment. That’s Penthouse North in a nutshell and it delivers no more or less than that.

Ruben’s film is a very 90s thriller – which isn’t odd when you consider that this is when the director did most of his most successful work (Sleeping With The Enemy) and while it doesn’t hit the genre’s high points, it’s a decent enough movie to spend less than 90 minutes on. In a way, it pains me to say that Penthouse North is just okay – Michael Keaton deserves a greater position within the Hollywood pecking order. He should have the career that Tom Hanks has (just imagine The Da Vinci Code top-lined by Keaton) and Ruben’s thriller simply doesn’t make the most of his abilities. It’s a bit too simplistic and it needs more bite, more depth. There’s a great film somewhere with this talent invoked, but this isn’t it.

Monaghan is also solid as the blinded war photographer – but again she’s a better performer than the material offered. We know that she can deliver a strong performance as an empowered female (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) but her character in Penthouse North feels a bit too feeble. At least she’s able to continue her one woman crusade to work with every actor who has played Batman – she starred with Val Kilmer in the aforementioned Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, was directed by Ben Affleck in Gone Baby Gone and acted in (and was cut out of) Syriana with George Clooney.

Sometimes you watch films and wonder why the’ve skipped the the cinema and made their debut on DVD, but you can see why this happened with Penthouse North – it doesn’t feel fresh and its audience is limited to a minority (hardcore Keatonites like myself). Penthouse North is a pretty routine thriller that brings nothing new to the table. It’s not great, but it’s not totally terrible either and it’s biggest sin is that it should have been better.