I Came By (2022) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): Competent but ultimately flawed

I must confess that I found it rather challenging for me to talk about Netflix film “I Came By”, which was released a few days ago. Because many of crucial moments in the film depend on unexpected narrative turns, I will try as much as possible for not spoiling any of your entertainment while delving a bit into its story and characters, but I sincerely recommend you to watch the movie instead of reading the next paragraphs, especially if you are already interested in checking out this competent but ultimately flawed genre piece.

At first, the movie, which is mainly set in London, shows us the latest private secret mission of a lad named Toby Nealy (George MacKay) and his longtime childhood friend Jameel “Jay” Agassi (Percelle Ascott), For last several months, they broke into the residences of rich folks and then left a distinctively graffiti of theirs, and this illegal activity of theirs has drawn considerable attention on the internet while regarded as a bold act of defiance against the capitalistic system.

Not long after successfully accomplishing their latest mission, Jay happens to come across a suitable target for their next mission. The target in question is a retired judge named Hector Blake (Hugh Bonneville), and this guy looks fairly respectable and admirable for his dedication to civil rights, but Toby is skeptical just because Blake seems rather hypocritical considering his very privileged family background.

Anyway, breaking into Blake’s house looks pretty easy to say the least. He lives alone in his house, and, thank to Jay, Neil can easily turn off the security system of Blake’s house, but there comes a major setback for Neil. After learning that his girlfriend Naz (Varada Sethu) becomes pregnant, Jay decides that he really should be more careful and responsible than before, and he becomes all the more determined about that when Naz’s conservative parents later disown her due to her pregnancy. 

In the end, Neil decides to break into Blake’s house alone by himself, and everything seems to be going well for him at first, but, of course, there soon comes another problem. It turns out that Blake has one big terrible secret hidden inside his house, and that naturally puts Neil into a very complicated circumstance. Sure, he may call the police and then show them what he discovered, but this will definitely expose not only him but also Jay, who, as a young black man with a substantial criminal record, does not want to get into another legal trouble.

Now I should be more careful as going further into details, so I will just say that Neil’s opponent is not only smart and resourceful but also quite formidable to say the least. When his house is subsequently searched by the police later in the story, Blake is not so perturbed at all because of his respectable status, and, thanks to his several influential friends, he can also pull some strings for preventing any further investigation.

Around that narrative point, the screenplay by director/co-producer/co-writer Babak Anvari and his co-writer Namsi Khan gradually shifts its focus to Blake’s twisted criminal mind. There is a quiet but creepy scene where he casually reveals more of what has made him tick since his childhood years, and we are more chilled by how he methodically takes care of his current problem with no remorse or hesitation at all.

Meanwhile, the movie also pays some attention to Jay and the other main character in the story. Although her relationship with her son has been quite strained, Lizzie (Kelly Macdonald) decides to get to the bottom of whatever his son gets himself into, and she soon gets some clues thanks to a little indirect help from Jay, who still does not reveal everything to her or his girlfriend. It does not take much time for Lizzie to grasp the overall situation surrounding her son and Jay, and she comes to fear more than before when she happens to come upon one sudden incident while doing her little stakeout outside Blake’s house.

Up to that point, the movie engaged me fairly enough, but then, unfortunately, it takes a series of contrived plot turns to my dissatisfaction. Although its plot did surprise me more than once, I came to observe its story and characters from the distance in the end due to a number of flaws in terms of storytelling and characterization, and I was also quite disappointed with how it pulls off its eventual finale too conveniently.

In case of the main cast members of the film, they do try whatever they can do with their respective roles, but they are often limited by their rather conventional character. While George MacKay and Kelly Macdonald are stuck in their thankless parts, Percelle Ascott and Varada Sethu manage to acquit themselves well despite their underdeveloped supporting roles, and Hugh Bonneville is effectively chilling without disrupting his character’s supposedly clean-cut appearance at all.

Overall, “I Came By” is a little better than Anvari’s middling previous work “Wounds” (2019), but it is still a letdown compared to his impressive debut feature film “Over the Shadow” (2016). In short, this is an average Netflix flick you may come by, but I would rather recommend you to check out “Over the Shadow” instead, and you will probably thank me for that.

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