Tall, dark, and brooding, Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts is the man you go to when you need bruised masculinity, International Cinema Division. If you’ve seen him as the hormonally jacked cattle breeder in the Oscar-nominated Bullhead (2011), or the oddly tender underground fighter in Rust and Bone (2012), or the Brooklyn thug giving Tom Hardy mad tsuris in The Drop (2014), you know what we’re talking about here. He can do sexy, menacing, sensitive and messed-in-the head simultaneously. It’s just a matter of when regarding the big crossover moment, not if.
This thriller from French filmmaker Alice Winocour (Augustine) won’t be the vehicle to do it for him, but Schoenaerts is easily the best reason to check out what starts as an exercise in atmosphere and ends up an elliptical attempt at action-movie heroics. Playing a PTSD-afflicted veteran named Vincent who’s adjusting to life back home, he’s the guy we’re piggybacking on — almost all of the movie takes place from his slightly cracked P.O.V., all jittery over-the-shoulder glances and odd bursts of dissonant noise (he sustained an ear injury in the field) on the sound track. In need of a gig, Vincent takes a security-detail job at a Lebanese industrialist’s party; that leads to a longer stint watching over the man’s German spouse (Inglourious Basterds‘ Diane Kruger) and son. Our tense, jumpy friend gets the feeling that he and the family are being followed. Which seems crazy. Until it doesn’t.
Once the movie switches into trio-under-siege territory, Winocour goes from letting her hero marinate in paranoia to proving that yes, he is indeed a badass; there’s a nice crispness to the claustrophobic cat-and-mouse scenes that make up most of the back half. Except there’s so little on the character development front that you find yourself biting your nails in between yawns, and while Kruger does the best she can with a role that could have been simply called Blond Euro-Trophy Wife No. 1, she’s not given much to work with past a generic damsel-in-distress template. There’s also a big difference between using ambiguity in your storytelling and simply leaving plot holes unfilled, especially when your film doesn’t end so much as abruptly stop playing. Only Schoenaerts emerges unscathed from this, reminding you that some folks can do little beside dart their eyes and still hold a screen. He’ll continue to go places. Disorder feels like it rarely gets out of neutral.