|JAKE GYLLENHAAL takes aim at pervert.|
Dir. Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Len Cariou
Review By Greg Klymkiw
A card-carrying NRA member, avid hunter, hardcore survivalist and devout Christian (Hugh Jackman) hauls his wife (Maria Bello) and kids across the street to celebrate Thanksgiving with an African American family (including hubby Terrence Howard and wifey Viola Davis). Only in Hollywood's America will we find a card-carrying NRA member, avid hunter, hardcore survivalist and devout Christian so gosh-darn Liberal that he's happy to break bread with those he normally might be more inclined to lynch. It is, as the old American saying goes, mighty white of him.
As the families give thanks over turkey, their sweet young girls go missing. One supposes they were all being too complacently Liberal to notice the absence of their respective cherubs. Luckily the older kids had earlier noticed a mysterious RV parked in the area, but were too busy watching TV (an official American pastime) instead of keeping an eye on the kids. The cops are called and as luck would have it, the police department's ace specialist in child abductions (Jake Gyllenhaal) just happens to be round the corner when an APB goes out. The cop in question has a perfect record - endowed with a 100% success rate in finding abducted kids, he locates the RV faster than a speeding bullet.
Inside the RV is a prime suspect (Paul Dano), but neither of the girls. It turns out the suspect has the I.Q. of a 10-year-old. Phew! Luckily actor Paul Dano is not forced to deliver the Tropic Thunder definition of "the full retard", however, as he's playing a suspected pervert, Oscar is still probably not in the cards for him (though a nomination might be likely).
Sadly, it seems there is no evidence (forensic or otherwise) linking the suspect to the girls and he's eventually free to go back to his unbelievably strange auntie (Melissa Leo) who seems so creepy, one wonders why I was able to figure out who done it before any of the characters in the movie (or, it appears, the audience) did. Much as I wanted to flee, I was forced to sit all the way through this foul, nasty-minded, predictable, plot-hole-ridden, moronically by-the-numbers and reprehensibly exploitative piece of filth in order to test my predictions (all checked out) and to see if the movie could get any worse than it already was. That the movie took almost two and one half hours to drag us through muck for no other reason than to "entertain" was the ample filling in the shit sandwich that is and always will be Prisoners.
There was nothing entertaining about this movie and certainly nothing substantive. It purports to be such a thoughtful, intelligent, high-minded thriller, but to play on such basic parental fears as abducted children and deliver it in a stupidly by-rote fashion which hits every cliche under the sun so that almost every story beat points to the ludicrous and I'm not kidding, the utterly, stupefyingly, mind-bogglingly ridiculous happy ending, is simply beyond the pale.
That we get to see Hugh Jackman kidnapping and torturing the not-full-retard suspect, we're supposed to go tut-tut over his actions, but also carefully weigh the other side of the coin on such matters and perhaps even justify this and, by extension, the torture of "terrorists" in Guantanamo Bay. This is frankly, on a par with The Triumph of the Will, but even Riefenstahl's film was more honest than this - it wore its evil on its sleeve. Prisoners slinks about in the fashion of cowards, burying its evil below its slick, fake surface.
This is not only a dreadful movie, but an evil, dangerous one at that. It's pure snake oil. It allows an audience some visceral thrills, but does so by delivering a safe conclusion to placate said audience.
If the film wanted to truthfully portray a harrowing case of child abduction, its effect upon families, the community and cops, it had plenty of opportunities to do so without boneheadedly, gluttonously and easily resorting to serving up the cake and allowing us to eat it too. It all boils down to the wretched screenplay being honed, no doubt, by savvy, market-conscious producers. Let's make it tough, but not too tough. In spite of a great cast doing fine work to make this all fly and the clearly skilful direction by Quebec director Denis Villeneuve, whose astounding Polytechnique handled the true-life story about the Montreal Massacre by Marc Lepine with such intelligence and horror, Prisoners remains a tragic waste of fine talent and an audiences' time.
This movie is so reprehensible, I feel deep embarrassment for all those involved and I'm sick to my stomach that I sat all the way through it. Movies like this are the true pornography of contemporary cinema. And for all Canadian/Quebec culture-vultures who think it's so great when one of our filmmakers jump ship to Hollywood to make crap like this - think again. Other than his paycheque and hopefully an opportunity to freely get back to making his own cinema, are the only things Villeneuve needs to be happy about.
"Prisoners" premiers at the Toronto International Film Festival 2013 and opens wide on September 20. Visit the TIFF website HERE.