31 October 2001 | petershelleyau
it's a thin line between good and evil
Richard Thomas is perfectly cast in this TV movie, playing a creepy sociopath. As a homeless man who insinuates himself into the life of Bruce Davison, like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction but without the sex, Thomas is first seen in Charles Manson beard and long hair. This getup hides his facial mole which defines him as much as the cleft in Kirk Douglas' chin. One may find the presentation of the homeless as greedy psychopaths offensive, particularly when Thomas demonstrates an accumulation of money from begging. However once we learn how Thomas has become homeless, with the suggestion that he hasn't been on the street for long, the shaming stereotype lessens. The first resentment of Thomas' street behaviour is a test for the audience's tolerance. Is Thomas harassing or is the person he approaches over-reacting? Since we have seen that Thomas is accumulating, and his reaction to the man's refusal, we are more likely to read Thomas as dangerous, even if the title didn't already say so. Thomas Director Noel Nosseck even makes a demonic parallel, though specifying it would spoil the climax, and I could have done without one close-up with Thomas' face half lit. Thomas claims that he knows people, which is always the excuse of the sociopath, and his in-your-face technique creates the opposite desired effect to any reasonable person -anyone who doesn't see through the banality of his trying to be friendly act deserves whatever happens to them. Nosseck actually uses this effect when Thomas has a tirade which reveals his intention. The teleplay by Carey and Chad Hayes is streamlined. Nothing seems superfluous, everything feeds the narrative, and Nosseck keeps things moving. We get a standard hiding so as not to be discovered when Thomas' room is being searched and he returns unexpectedly but without an obvious conclusion, some off-camera killings, and the jovial smile of a detective falling from his face when it is no longer required. Davison can play this kind of nice guy family man in his sleep but thankfully he is given limits when provoked.