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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Roland Joffé
scr Larry Cohen, Joseph Tura
with Elisha Cuthbert, Daniel Gillies, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Michael Harney, Laz Alonso, Rebekah Ryan, Michael Maples, Olivia Negron, Chrysta Olson, Elijah Runcorn, Remy Thorne
release UK 22.Jun.07, US 13.Jul.07
07/US Lionsgate 1h25
Prisoners of love: Cuthbert and Gillies
In the, erm, fine tradition of torture-terror movies like Saw or Hostel, this resolutely un-scary movie merely exists to put its central characters in peril and inflict as much pain as possible, while ignoring things like plot and characterisation. It's polished and atmospheric, but utterly vacuous.
Jennifer (Cuthbert) is a top model who's being watched by a nefarious stalker (Vince). Eventually he grabs her and locks her up in some sort of high tech dungeon, tormenting her physically and psychologically, mostly by grossing her out as much as possible. Eventually she makes contact with another prisoner, Gary (Gillies), in the cell next door, and they do everything they can to thwart the villain's plan, whatever it might be. But he seems pretty ruthlessly in control of the situation.
Like most of these films, the simplistically defined baddie clearly has untold riches at his disposal, so he can create outrageously elaborate technical gadgetry with which to plague his guests. Doors and drawers snap open and closed, lights glare and then suddenly shut off, hidden cameras whirr everywhere, expensive and complex drug cocktails keep his victims sedated, rooms can fill with sand on command. You get the idea. And this is only one way in which the film makes no logical sense whatsoever.
In fact, it's so mind-numbingly stupid that we don't have much sympathy for the hapless victims, who are obviously in some sort of game that's doesn't seem nearly as life-threatening as they make out. Cuthbert is coaxed into a one-note performance that goes nowhere, simply because the script doesn't bother making her into an actual human being. Gillies and Vince have a little more going on, especially when the film tantalisingly switches perspectives later on, but even their characters are completely undefined in any meaningful way.
It's impossible to accept the fact that the skilled Joffé is making this kind of movie. This is, after all, the Oscar-nominated director of The Killing Fields (1984) and The Mission (1986). Maybe he was lured by Cohen's simple and to-the-point scriptwriting style. Maybe the bills have stacked up in the past 20 years. Whatever the reason, this misogynistic, sadistic genre needs to stop now.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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