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Overall Rating
3.46

Awesome30.51%
Worth A Look: 28.25%
Average: 12.99%
Pretty Bad: 13.56%
Total Crap: 14.69%

12 reviews, 105 user ratings


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Hard Candy
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Kitty Pryde vs. Nite Owl."
2 stars

'Hard Candy' is certainly intense, in an attention-grabbing theatrical way. It feels very much like a filmed play, its conflict limited to the battle of wills between a fourteen-year-old girl and a possible pedophile. It even has a hook to buzz about — the notorious sequence having to do with castration. And it isn't a spoiler to reveal that there's a sequence having to do with castration, since that's all anyone has talked about.

The movie, a first feature by music-video vet David Slade, bends over backwards to make the talking heads riveting. Of course, when one of the heads is talking about the damage it plans to do to the other head — or the other head's body — our attention is practically guaranteed, if grudgingly given. Hard Candy goes a long way on the power of its leads, Ellen Page (as the lethal-Lolita Hayley) and Patrick Wilson (as the 32-year-old photographer Jeff). Page conveys a kind of sneering intelligence and has the flashier role by far, but it's Wilson who does most of the heavy lifting, luring us to sympathize with a man who, it turns out, is not really worth our sympathy. Yet the movie is structured so that we dread what Hayley has in store for Jeff, even if he deserves it.

I suppose a two-character cat-and-mouse game like Hard Candy can't help but be manipulative. It reminds me of Steven Spielberg's plaintive objection to "manipulative" as a pejorative: every narrative manipulates to some extent. What critics mean when they brand something manipulative is that they feel manipulated — they feel the hands of the director and writer (Brian Nelson hit the keyboard here) pushing them this way and that. Hard Candy seems designed to do that and nothing else. It's the kind of indie film that makes its mark by a controversial theme, an infamous scene, and dines out on its film-festival buzz. But at the end we're left with nothing much other than bruises from having been handled so mercilessly.

Is Hayley supposed to be a psycho or a hero, or both, or neither? Other than Sandra Oh in a needless scene as Jeff's neighbor and Jennifer Holmes as a model Jeff is still obsessed with, the movie really only has the two characters, and the fewer characters there are, the more they seem to stand for. Hayley is pure, infuriated Woman; Jeff is piggish, craven Man. If that sounds like an empowerment fable, or even a minimalist revenge flick, it's actually more along the lines of the vagina dentata paranoia of David Mamet's Oleanna. (That film would make a natural double bill with Hard Candy — just don't bring a first date.) The characters aren't written with any particular subtlety, so Page — an appealing young actress full of unpredictable energy — can't do much with Hayley aside from bratty diabolism. The centerpiece of the film is like art-house torture porn, with the ultimate male fear of what women would do to men if given the chance placed right out front.

It's gripping, all right. But, to paraphrase George Lucas, I could grip you pretty hard by making you think I'm going to kill a kitten. What would be the point of it, though, other than proving I could hold your attention (assuming you don't walk out in disgust)? 'Hard Candy' comes on breathing heavily about the real-world topics it exploits — men who prey on young girls via the internet — but goes about its squalid business in such a crude, basic way that it leaves some of us feeling resentful and insulted.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11287&reviewer=416
originally posted: 10/19/07 13:47:39
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2006 Florida Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/16/14 Charles Tatum Page doesn't quite ring true. 4 stars
2/18/14 nncpywj USA 3 stars
12/04/12 Mason Very Very original! direction is superb and original plot 4 stars
10/17/12 Jacqui Intelligent, thought provoking, rivetting. Ellen Page is amazing. 5 stars
8/25/12 Faraz hard movie to watch 4 stars
8/15/12 Robin Utterly grim and pointless. We get it, pedophiles are bad people. See 'Freeway' instead. 2 stars
6/09/12 liker of good movies Wothless 1 stars
3/16/12 PAUL SHORTT DISTURBING BUT ENGROSSING PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER WITH SOME GOOD PERFORMANCES 3 stars
11/10/11 matthew thompson dalldorf Don't forget AUDITION! 1 stars
11/10/11 Thompson ...or 'Freeway.' 1 stars
4/19/11 matthew Stick with 'Death And The Maiden' 1 stars
1/11/11 Moose Rapper "Hayley was impossibly smart..." To bad the wasn't. 1 stars
3/22/10 nathan b great directing, acting and editing makes up for its lacking plot. 4 stars
3/13/10 brian That's one heapin' steamin' helpin' of vigilante justice there. 5 stars
9/28/09 jpwcpa Hayley was impossibly smart, and impossibly strong, for a 14-yr-old 2 stars
9/02/09 SpaceGoat Self-indulgent, ghoulish and sadistic, the target audience clearly being man-haters. 1 stars
7/08/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess Something every moralist will want to masterbait while watching. 1 stars
6/20/09 jeanne Ellen Page was incredible. It goes around, it comes around... 5 stars
3/28/09 GRAPELGANGER Awesome movie... great ending 5 stars
3/26/09 mariah the ending was awesome 4 stars
1/09/09 Lori good movie but pretty odd and nasty 4 stars
1/09/09 Anonymous. ellen page is awesome. she can be this freak, and she can be juno... 4 stars
10/29/08 Matt C. Wow. So many reviewers who feel Hayley was too cruel to the pedophile/murderer. Great film/ 5 stars
9/26/08 Timothy Kirkland Smart writing, cast of 5 people, very off center 4 stars
9/14/08 Claire ok, did you even watch the movie?? she DIDNT cut his balls off!!! stop complaining. 4 stars
9/07/08 Rod Good acting, rubbish directing, dodgy plot, not worth sitting through 1 stars
9/06/08 m Brilliant movie. Great acting - Ellen Page can be a monster. She doesn't cut his balls off! 5 stars
8/11/08 Heather A 14-yr-old who can do surgery? Gimme a break! Totally unbelievable! 1 stars
7/13/08 Paul's2¢ Two pervs - one who doesn't kill, one who doesn't cut. Vigilante hot air for simpletons. 3 stars
7/01/08 Chris Don't like torture movies (like Hostel - yuck!) and this stinks too, despite good acting. 1 stars
6/12/08 DK A great film, understanding of tension is apparent in Slade's direction. 5 stars
4/30/08 art THIS IS ONE SICK MOVIE 1 stars
4/30/08 dan i think this film was wierd, i thought it was pretty gd but didnt think he deserved 2 die 4 stars
4/09/08 Michelle The ending is lacking. Maybe flashbacks of the girl that was killed would help tie it? 3 stars
4/07/08 bob total shit, with shit ending, and he moved pretty well concidering his balls where cut off, 1 stars
3/29/08 Lawrence Peabody Excellent performances make up for the flimsy plot; a flawed but memorable thriller 4 stars
2/03/08 Joseph Becker A movie that makes one ask who is the problem? The "pedofile", or those quick to judge. 4 stars
1/14/08 David Pollastrini could of used some gore but great and scary 5 stars
1/13/08 TreeTiger Craaaap-o-la 2 stars
1/05/08 Cheryl who's more messed up? . the prick teasing torturing chic or the prick teasee 5 stars
10/20/07 eleanore compelling-- original 4 stars
10/14/07 mr.mike edge of your seat suspense , marred by an unconvincing ending 4 stars
8/07/07 Chris Hansen You're not on Dateline.....bitch!!!! 5 stars
7/24/07 fools♫gold God, does this pick up! Perfect length, and explains the perfect amount! 5 stars
7/18/07 DETMURDS The "Left" must have hated this movie,...let kids be kids is what I say here! 3 stars
7/10/07 Michael its was supensefull and not as cliché as mxt movies now a days. 5 stars
5/28/07 Beverly Such an unusual plot. Left me thinking for hours, for days. Ellen Page is a phenomena. 5 stars
5/17/07 Diane I agree with the film critic. Manipulatingly provocative yet badly written, & overdirected. 1 stars
5/16/07 Mackelby I had a hard on from the very beginning, but could never really get off to this. Tease... 3 stars
4/17/07 bob Interesting...would have liked more explanation as to how 'Haley' knew what she knew..... 4 stars
3/23/07 TreeTiger It stunk really bad - stay away from this steaming pile of hot pooh..!! 1 stars
3/12/07 Patterson At some point, the rants become tedious and lose their inherent creepiness.Way too overdone 3 stars
3/07/07 Stanley Thai A very good and disturbing film. 4 stars
1/18/07 MP Bartley Has its moments but too studied, overwritten and overdeliberate to be truly provocative. 3 stars
1/01/07 Maggie Wow. A must-see. 5 stars
12/27/06 Agent Sands Amongst the top form of comeuppance films, torture endurance films, & battle of wits films. 5 stars
12/23/06 K. Sear Wow, there is actually such a thing as a movie that desperately NEEDS a twist ending. 1 stars
12/21/06 ALDO FINALLy A CURE for pediphiles...They will never look at children the same way again 5 stars
12/15/06 T. McGregor This had me squirming in my seat. Fantastic performance from Ellen Paige. 4 stars
12/09/06 malcolm vague; hard for me to believe a 14 y/o can be that malicious and conniving 3 stars
11/30/06 Joanie incredible 5 stars
11/20/06 Carson This movie is brillant. Ellan Page is going to be huge. 5 stars
11/19/06 Bevan It's intense for the most part and against the conventions of most mainstream films 4 stars
11/16/06 Elveran A movie about two disturbed people. And a pointless story about how cool torture is. 1 stars
11/14/06 chelsea wow i can't really find words to describe it wow 5 stars
11/09/06 DarkEnchantress it sucked! Im into blood and thrillers, but this just was not worth shit! 2 stars
11/09/06 Bitchflaps Redundant offal masquerading as a "provocative psychological thriller" *yawn* 1 stars
11/07/06 Indrid Cold I'm ashamed to admit it, but Ellen Page is freaking adorable. 4 stars
11/02/06 Dissappointed Castration didnt happen! WORST ENDING EVER! NOT JUSTIFIED/VERIFIED! Missed chance 2B Great! 1 stars
11/01/06 TeenGuy My fav. movie EVER, makes me wanna do it... 5 stars
10/31/06 ES Good watch, but I can see Ellen Page getting on audiences' nerves rather quickly 4 stars
10/20/06 Henry Una excelente película que incomoda, particularmente a nosotros los hombres 5 stars
10/13/06 lauren I really didn't know how to think but it left me thinking for hours 4 stars
10/12/06 Yazzluv I thought it was pretty good...I loved the color palet and the dialog 4 stars
10/10/06 Danny Intense. Very intense indeed. 4 stars
10/09/06 peta press Hate to state the obvious; this is a Nazi film, anti-paedophile instead of anti-semitic!! 5 stars
10/08/06 Giselle ortiz Exelente 1 stars
10/02/06 Drdanny If it makes you squirm, it's doing its job. 4 stars
9/25/06 Rich Very well executed, thought provoking twists and turns that keep you unbalanced. 4 stars
9/22/06 Joe K One to get you talking. Maybe it shows what should happen to all pervs? Loved it! 5 stars
9/20/06 action movie fan intense and scary--haylaey is the predator-- 5 stars
9/17/06 Oilfinger Preposterous sadistic rubbish, utterly unbelievable, with a miracle recovery that reeks 1 stars
9/17/06 Duncan Wrong issue to use for a cheap thriller.... 1 stars
8/13/06 Brian O'Neill Extremely original thriller/horror film with two brilliant performances. Forget Saw II. 5 stars
8/01/06 Jimmy0h I was in a cold sweat!!! 5 stars
7/30/06 c0oki3z Weird but okay.. 4 stars
7/04/06 mike b excruciatingly engrossing 5 stars
6/22/06 vicki Its total crap 1 stars
6/18/06 Don Paco A glorification of torture for the PC crowd: torturing is OK, as long as it's done by girls 1 stars
6/05/06 mary this movie is too boring to be disturbing and too much suspension of belief is required. 1 stars
6/03/06 San Lamar oh my god 5 stars
5/06/06 martha philpotts tremendously thought provoking 5 stars
5/02/06 Ole Man Bourbon Amusing at times, but not much to it. 3 stars
5/02/06 David Awful-- awful boring that is. Could have been done in about five minutes max. 1 stars
4/29/06 Sabrina Unsatisfying and insults the audiences intelligence 2 stars
4/28/06 Kenneth D. Robin this may be one of the worse movies that I have ever seen. It makes very little sense 1 stars
4/25/06 brendan can someone tell todd the word is 'penchant' not pension. using it twice irritates 3 stars
4/23/06 Mase Orignial daring filmmaking. A movie to squirm to and think about 5 stars
4/14/06 Ronald Pottol intense! 5 stars
4/13/06 Roldan Din Pretentious! Pseudo-intellectual at its peak! 2 stars
3/29/06 Jennifer nelson incredible 5 stars
4/12/05 Elliot Brilliant and compelling 5 stars
2/08/05 J. Cantor A MUST SEE! 5 stars
1/24/05 Chris Gonsalves Freaky N' Cool 5 stars
12/14/04 SANJA EXELENT WRITER 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  14-Apr-2006 (R)
  DVD: 19-Sep-2006

UK
  16-Jun-2006 (18)

Australia
  13-Jul-2006 (R)



[trailer] Trailer


Directed by
  David Slade

Written by
  Brian Nelson

Cast
  Patrick Wilson
  Ellen Page
  Sandra Oh
  Jennifer Holmes



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