Playing at times like an ABC movie of the week albeit with the assured directorial hand of Joseph Ruben (Sleeping with the Enemy) comes Penthouse North. Sara (Michelle Monaghan) is a photojournalist with a career on the frontline of military conflicts when during an assignment in Afghanistan she is blinded by a suicide bomber. As we catch up with her current lifestyle we see that she is comfortable in her penthouse apartment with her ‘investor’ boyfriend Ryan (Andrew Walker), but still remains apprehensive about venturing into the outside world. Indeed on the occasion she does venture outside she narrowly escapes being run over due to her reluctance to use a white stick.
Returning to her apartment on New Year’s Eve she brings back a couple of bottles of champagne in preparation for a relaxing evening with Ryan. She calls his name as she enters the apartment and shrugs off the lack of response. However, as she turns into the kitchen and the camera pans across, we discover Ryan is slumped on the floor motionless in a pool of his own blood. It’s a few moments before Sara realises the scale of the situation she’s in, by which time we also meet the intruder Chad (Barry Sloane).
Chad informs Sara that her boyfriend has been feeding her lies over the time they’ve been together, “Did you not wonder how he could afford a place like this?” he asks. With Sara frantically looking for a way to escape, Chad alleges that she knows what he’s come for and that she had better tell him where he will find them. With the viewer unaware of what the intruder is looking for just as much as Sara, she manages to disable Chad and make a run for the door. Once on the street she begs for help from the passers-by, to which one gentleman (Michael Keaton) immediately helps, but is his do-gooder act all that it seems?
It’s hard to analyse a film like Penthouse North without simply damning it continually with faint praise. Functional, pedestrian, average, predictable are all words that spring to mind. The film progresses at a tidy pace throughout its running time, and the script by David Loughery (Lakeview Terrace) is just fine. Michelle Monaghan is great as Sara, but the nagging question that persisted through the film was why isn’t she in better productions than this. She was brilliant in Gone Baby Gone (2007), but to me her stand out role was the criminally neglected Trucker (2008).
Michael Keaton appears during the second third of the movie and is well…Michael Keaton, bringing an air of uncomfortable menace to Sara’s perilous situation. With an underused subplot featuring Sara’s pregnant sister and cop husband there’s the occasional needless distraction, but generally Penthouse North is good enough for a non-taxing rental albeit with a hint of wasted talent considering the ability of those involved.