Review by Jacquelin Hipes
Bryan (Aaron Paul) and Cassie (Emily Ratajkowski) have just rented an expansive Italian villa in the hopes of rekindling their romance. Cassie’s past infidelity casts a shadow over the couple, impossible for Bryan to forget and for her to take back. Jetting off to a foreign country with nothing for one another for company proves itself a spectacularly bad idea when Bryan can’t shake his imagined version of her tryst. The atmosphere goes from tense to downright hostile after handsome neighbor Federico (Riccardo Scamarcio) gives Cassie a ride home after her morning run. The façade of an interested, helpful local quickly dissipates, however, as Federico begins manipulating the couple further towards disaster.
Welcome Home unspools as a total paint-by-numbers affair. Foreboding music plays over the opening credits, long before Bryan and Cassie receive any semblance of a backstory, bashing viewers over the head with a warning that Something Bad will happen. From the onset, we’re aware of Federico’s ill intentions and some of the tools he uses to advance them. Devoid of any suspense over the villain’s motives, Welcome Home struggles, and ultimately fails, to find any meaningful momentum.
As the squabbling couple, Paul and Ratajkowski lack chemistry even of the fiery, angry sort, making one wonder why two people so incompatible would bother going to such expense over a failing relationship. Scamarcio lays on an acceptable level of creepy smarm, although the David Levinson-penned script ineffectively calls for more pseudo-jump scares than lurking menace.
The story beats will feel familiar to anyone who has experienced at least one “sexy thriller” in the last thirty years. Welcome Home does attempt to take on one final “gotcha!” reveal in its final minutes, yet it reaches for such a large scope that it comes across as more outlandish than disquieting.
To its credit, there is nothing offensively bad about Welcome Home. Director George Ratliff knows precisely what goes into the making of a thriller and contents himself with the basic elements. There are, admittedly, worse ways to pass an hour and a half. But thrillers that neither titillate nor terrify raise the same fundamental question as the relationship between Bryan and Cassie: why bother?