The Man Next Door (1996) Michael Ontkean, Pamela Reed, Richard Gilliland, Sam Anderson, Annette O'Toole Movie Review

The Man Next Door (1996)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Michael Ontkean in The Man Next Door (1996)

Not in my Back Yard

Having served time for rape Eli Cooley (Michael Ontkean - Family Album) is released on parole and wanting to make a fresh start he moves to the small town where his brother and family lives. But despite his brother giving him work life isn't easy as his parole officer Wanda Gilmore (Pamela Reed - Deadly Whispers) does not like having a rapist in her town and doesn't trust Eli for one minute. But that is nothing compared to what happens when his neighbour Annie (Annette O'Toole - The Christmas Box) discovers Eli's past and before long the entire town wants him gone and will stop at nothing till they get their way.

Whilst I don't remember seeing it mentioned at the start of "The Man Next Door" this is another one of those made for TV movies based on or inspired by a true story which in this case is that of rapist Joseph P. Gallardo. Now I will say up front that "The Man Next Door" is typically a TV movie; the acting, the dialogue, the camera work it is all rooted in the made for TV genre and whilst doesn't automatically mean it is bad does make it ordinary at best compared to big screen movies. But despite that "The Man Next Door" is still an interesting movie which touches on some interesting aspects.

Annette O'Toole in The Man Next Door (1996)

Now it has to be said that "The Man next Door" is in many ways predictable covering some expected bases. It starts with everyone liking Eli until they learn that he served time for rape and then it turns into an old fashioned lynching style story as the town's folk don't want a former rapist in their community. And just as predictably we see how Wanda having started out being extremely tough on Eli finds herself trying to help him despite feeling conflicted by doing so. Let's just say there are very few surprises as to the various scenes we encounter once Eli's criminal past comes out. But at the same time we do see some interesting elements such as a meeting which Eli has to attend for those on parole for rape and at the same time it manages to show both sides of the story of a rapist trying to go straight whilst we have a woman who was raped trying to deal with her life and feeling safe.

Now the irony of "The Man Next Door" is that as I said it is typical of the TV movie genre with characters that don't have that best dialogue or a real sense of realism but the cast make it work. Michael Ontkean is solid as Eli making him tough but at the same time a man just trying to start again and put his past behind him. Opposite him Pamela Reed digs deep to bring out the conflict of her characters as Wanda plus Annette O'Toole brings some powerful emotion as the neighbour trying to rebuild her life having been raped many years earlier.

What this all boils down to is that "The Man Next Door" is an interesting movie which does a reasonable job of covering both sides of the story from a paroled rapist trying to start again but also showing the opposition of the locals.