Hoodie-clad Toby (George MacKay) and his best friend Jay (Percelle Ascott) think of themselves as social-justice class warriors. That’s why they go to elaborate lengths to break into rich people’s homes and spray the tag “I came by” in huge graffiti letters on walls, although this kind of prankish vandalism seems a little 2012-ish. In any case, when Toby infiltrates the house of retired high court judge Hector Blake (Hugh Bonneville), he finds a nasty surprise in the basement that rather belies Blake’s reputation as a saintly champion of immigrants.
It’s just the first of several shock twists the film has in store, all of them variations on games Alfred Hitchcock was playing at a masterly level decades ago. The problem is that when a thriller keeps twisting in the same direction three or four times in a row it stops being surprising and just becomes a weird slog, like a donkey treading in circles to work a millstone. Fans of writer-director Babak Anvari’s innovative debut Under the Shadow will be disappointed in the weedy screenwriting here, credited to Anvari and co-writer Namsi Khan, and the film’s over-reliance on stale jump-scares and fakeout surprises.
There are a few things to admire, such as the always welcome Kelly Macdonald as Toby’s mum Liz, who spends a lot of time sitting in cars sucking furiously on cigarettes in an interesting break with cinema’s current tendency to make all spaces smoke-free. Bonneville seems to be having fun too, rocking a silver fox hair-do and an ascot tie as he channels predatory smugness. But the choppiness of the storytelling may leave viewers of I Came By wondering when it will ever get up and go.
In UK cinemas from August 19 and on Netflix in the US from August 31