NOT SAFE FOR WORK (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Directed by: Joe Johnston

Written by: Adam Mason & Simon Boyes

Starring: Max Minghella, J.J. Feild, Eloise Mumford, Christian Clemenson, Tom Gallop & Brandon Keener

From the director of HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS and THE PAGEMASTER, comes a surprisingly solid thriller. NOT SAFE FOR WORK was shelved by Blumhouse and then unceremoniously dumped onto VOD/home video amongst a handful of other forgotten Blumhouse-produced flicks. Occasionally, delayed movies can be pleasantly entertaining and this is one of those films. Clocking in at just over 70 minutes, NOT SAFE FOR WORK is a thriller that’s short, fun, and silly.

Tom Miller (Max Minghella) is having a crappy day at his paralegal job. After being chewed out by two bosses and given hours of menial paperwork, Tom is informed that he’s being terminated for one little memo. On his way out of the office, Tom notices a mysterious man (J.J. Feild) with a briefcase heading in a direction where he shouldn’t be going. Because Tom is a curious guy, he decides to investigate and discovers that the man is actually a contract killer on a job. Unfortunately for Tom, he’s now trapped on the 37th floor of his former workplace with a murderous psycho. A game of cat-and-mouse ensues, bullets fly, and bodies pile up.

Seeing as there’s precious little time to waste in a movie that runs shorter than some TV episodes, NOT SAFE FOR WORK spends about 15 minutes (tops) setting up its premise and giving us some background information. It’s clear that certain things mentioned in the beginning will come back later on, but the film luckily doesn’t reveal these bits in a sloppily obvious manner. The viewer knows that stuff is going to hit the fan and the frantic pace starts chugging along as soon as Tom spots the suited stranger.

From that moment forward, NOT SAFE FOR WORK makes for an entertaining stalker thriller and gradually becomes an action-packed battle of wits. The earlier bits of this cat-and-mouse game (in which the killer is unaware of Tom’s presence) pack in impressively suspenseful moments. Something as simple as a phone ringing, a toilet flushing or a very poorly chosen hiding spot become a matter of life and death. These early bits of suspense only make the later confrontations between Max Minghella’s Tom and J.J. Feild’s killer even more enjoyable.

NOT SAFE FOR WORK features a bunch of unrecognizable faces and some performances are notably better than others. Minghella’s Tom is a bit bland in spots and makes numerous eye-rollingly stupid decisions early on. The way in which he loses his cell phone is bafflingly dumb. Still, Minghella is able to pull off a few stand-out scenes and makes progressively cleverer moves as the film moves forward. Christian Clemenson is more than a little convincing as Tom’s asshole boss. Meanwhile, Eloise Mumford is okay enough as Tom’s love-interest and a last-minute damsel-in-distress. The scene-stealer is J.J. Feild as the nameless contract killer. This psycho has a lot of confidence and charisma to go along with his soft-spoken manner. He does occasionally get over-the-top, but that seems intentional.

Though it has lots of suspense, a solid pace, and a show-stealing baddie, NOT SAFE FOR WORK encounters some hiccups during its final act. There are a few twists that make their way into the narrative. Some of these work and others uncover gaping plot holes that are too big to ignore. The final minutes also garnered a solid laugh from me and yet, left me feeling like I wanted a stronger final note. There’s a big difference between leaving things open on an ambiguous note or making a cliffhanger because the writer didn’t know how to properly end their story. This felt very much like the latter.

Even with its flaws considered, I was shocked at much I enjoyed NOT SAFE FOR WORK. Low expectations may have had something to do with that, but this movie entertained me. It moves at a fast pace, has mostly good acting, packs in well-executed suspense, and was fun from start to finish. Even as the script’s sillier problems reared their heads in the film’s final 15 minutes, I was still enjoying this film…albeit in a much cheesier way. If you have 75 minutes to kill and want a fun little thriller, NOT SAFE FOR WORK is surprisingly recommended!

Grade: B