Those who know their movies will know that the 2009 movie called "The Lodger" is not the first movie to adapt Marie Belloc Lowndes novel as Hitchcock had already done a version back in 1927. But David Ondaatje's version updates the story to a modern setting whilst trying to capture a bit of 1950's crime movie style mixed with contemporary. For me it doesn't work as whilst there is certainly a mystery surrounding who the killer is and a good cast this version of "The Lodger" not only lacks atmosphere but also has stylistic flourishes which jar with the narrative.
After the brutal murder of a prostitute in West Hollywood det. Chandler Manning (Alfred Molina - The Hoax) and rookie Street Wilkenson (Shane West - The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) are on the case as the killer appears to be the same one from several years earlier but now imitating Jack the Ripper. Manning is obsessed with the case but he also has other problems including a wife who has suffered a nervous breakdown and a daughter who blames him. Meanwhile Ellen Bunting (Hope Davis) is in a loveless marriage and takes in the mysterious Malcolm (Simon Baker) as a lodger who wants absolute privacy.
So there is no doubt that "The Lodger" has a good cast of well known names and faces from Alfred Molina and Hope Davis to Simon Baker and Mel Harris. And in fairness each of these actors play their part well, they create characters who all are slightly suspicious, from the seemingly out of it Ellen to Chandler who doesn't follow police protocol. There is an argument to be had that maybe there are too many characters because some such as Rachael Leigh Cook as Chandler's daughter Amanda only seem a distraction but they do all end up having a part to play.
There is also no doubt that the strength of the story and the characters make for this guessing game because during the first half everyone is a potential suspect. When Ellen's husband clears off he goes for hours and is out when the murders take place, Malcolm is very secretive and certain things make you think that he could be it. But then there is Chandler who continually breaks protocol and tampers with the evidence as well as rookie Street who has something about him which makes you think maybe he isn't as innocent as he seems. It is mainly because we have this guessing game and entertaining performances that it keeps you watching.
The trouble is that when you focus on the actual story and events it is not that interesting as we have just another copycat killer with an expected twist. Not only that director David Ondaatje seems more interested in creating style rather than creating atmosphere and those moments of style jar with the rest of the movie. The flashing lights, the beating rain, those moments of dizziness all may be well executed but they stick out like a sore thumb.
What this all boils down to is that the "Lodger" is not a bad movie, in fact it keeps you watching but it struggles when you get pass the guessing game of who the killer is.