2 out of 5 stars
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it was the perfect plan Mexican director Luis Mandoki has become one of the most reliable creators of Hollywood-style movies. He seems able to turn any intriguing little script into a slick, manipulative, overblown Event Movie (see also Angel Eyes, Message in a Bottle). In this one, Karen and Will (Theron and Townsend) are a happy couple with a bright 6-year-old Abby (Fanning). Then they're divided by a trio of kidnappers: Joe (Bacon) takes charge of Karen, while his simple brother Marvin (Vince) whisks Abby off to a secret location, and Joe's wife Cheryl (Love) nabs Will. The plan is that these three duos do a sort of dance for 24 hours until the kidnappers get their money and the family is reunited. But this time it all goes horribly wrong. Abby is asthmatic and needs medical help; and neither Karen nor Will are going along with the plan.

So far so good. This is a terrific story, with real emotional resonance and the opportunity for some honest suspense as the three-pronged story is propelled by six good actors (Fanning is by far the best of the lot; Love looks too odd for words; and poor Townsend gets all the worst dialog). You can tell from the start that the film is overbaked--too much sweeping camera work, overdesigned sets, swelling music, a family that's too perfect before their world is shattered ... and those little touches that you just know are going to come back later (like Will "wiggling the wings" of his float plane for the delighted Abby). Strangely, the characters all become less likeable as they use violence and deception to try and get or keep the upper hand. All of this undermines the intriguing premise, and the film gets increasingly corny and contrived as it power-dives to the Explosively Big Ending.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 27.Jan.03

dir Luis Mandoki
scr Greg Iles
with Charlize Theron, Kevin Bacon, Courtney Love, Stuart Townsend, Dakota Fanning, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Steve Rankin, Garry Chalk, Jodie Markell, Matt Koby, Gerry Becker, Colleen Camp
release US 20.Sep.02; UK 25.Apr.03
02/US 1h46

Take it easy. Joe (Bacon) tries to get something besides money out of Karen (Theron), who has a little surprise of her own in store...

love townsend fanning
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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall