Review by Dan Skip Allen
George MacKay had a good year when 1917 came out. He was riding the wave of all the awards coverage and potential nominations for himself and the film. He hasn't been in many of the most notable film and television projects since then. I Came By is the latest film he's in, but he's not the only established star in the movie, or even the main star, for that matter. Sadly, they are all wasted in this muddled mess of a film.
MacKay's character and his friend (Percelle Ascott) are petty thieves who like to tag their jobs with the moniker "I Came By." While working for a man named Hector Blake (Hugh Bonneville), doing yard work, they notice he's pretty well off, and they set up another score. The problem is Ascott's character wants out because he and his girlfriend are having a child together. He doesn't want this life anymore. He wants to go straight. The MacKay character decides to do the job on his own and finds something disturbing at the man's estate in the cellar.
MacKay's character's mother, played by Kelly MacDonald, notices something is bothering him. He doesn't key her into his situation, instead getting in a fight with her and storming out. What he saw still bothers him, so he goes back to investigate the situation a little more. This wasn't a good decision because the Bonneville character was waiting for him and ambushed him in the cellar. His mother and friend start to get concerned about him after that night he disappeared.
This film has a vibe of Rear Window mixed with Disturbia. These shady characters have the authorities looking at them, and then they get out of whatever accusations are thrown against them. That's a trope in suspense thrillers like this. The problem is the other two films I mentioned are much better than this one. This film doesn't know what it wants to be, so it's all over the place.
The Bonneville character is set up as a judge who has some sexual proclivities. He's hiding some things from the authorities, and all these people are trying to get him. The filmmaker, Babak Anvari, and writer Namsi Khan didn't set up the story properly. It doesn't justify why people care so much about this man and his secrets. They are the ones in the wrong from my point of view. If they had never tried to rob him, none of the extra activities in the film would have happened.
This film is based on contrivances to justify why all these characters do what they do, which isn't good from the start. The film doesn't look bad from a cinematography point of view. It's shot very well and has some nice camera angles. The performances are fine even though they are wasted in a ridiculous story from beginning to end. The concept of graffiti taggers robbing houses and using "I Came By" as their moniker was an interesting premise, but it went totally wrong in the end.
I Came By streams on Netfix beginning August 31.