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Captivity

Reviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 07/16/07 05:25:35

"Proof that there are worse movies than "Transformers."
1 stars (Total Crap)

The stalker-torturer in the abysmal "Captivity" is apparently motivated by rage at his druggie mother, who molested him as a boy. He ended up knifing her to death. How do we know this? Because there’s video footage of it. Not only that, it appears to have been filmed and edited by a camera crew, since the footage cuts back and forth between at least two cameras. Or is this a re-enactment? Did the villain hire two boys and an actress to act out the defining trauma of his youth for his cameras so that he could show the video to his captives? Wait a minute — is there a video company that provides this service to diabolical killers? “Your Oedipal Murder Re-Enacted! Now Offering High-Def DVD Transfers.”

Captivity is the worst, stupidest, and most pointless movie I’ve seen in a very long time. How much of it can be blamed on credited director Roland Joffé (who in sunnier days helmed The Killing Fields and The Mission) is up for debate; word around the campfire is that the movie was once more of a conventional thriller (i.e., without the torture-porn aspects) before Courtney Solomon of After Dark got his claws into it and added such appetizing bits as a woman’s face destroyed by hot oil and a woman forced to drink puréed body parts. This, presumably, was meant to jump on the hot bandwagon of Hostel and its ilk; this was also before Hostel Part II arrived in theaters earlier this summer to the sound of crickets and slouched dejectedly off of the nation’s screens after a fortnight.

The lacquered nonactress Elisha Cuthbert stars as Jennifer Tree, a jaded New York model often heard in interviews saying bubbleheaded things like “Beauty rules” and “My parents didn’t pass on the loving gene to me.” A magazine cover identifies her as “The Girl With No Heart.” So will Captivity be a life lesson roughly administered, like the torments visited upon the insufficiently life-embracing in the Saw flicks? Nope, nothing at all is done with that angle. Jennifer is singled out because she resembles her captor’s mother. (Which doesn’t explain why, early in the film, we see a guy being tortured. Who knows, maybe he looks good in high heels?) At two points, especially in a scene guaranteed to drive dog lovers nuts, Jennifer is given a choice to save her own skin or save someone else. Each time she chooses her own skin, which doesn’t endear her to us. Neither does her sudden sexual avidity when she discovers another captive, Gary (Daniel Gillies), who must also look good in high heels. Or maybe, just maybe, he’s in cahoots with the killer.

Some of Captivity is authentically sleazy and unpleasant in a way that recalls the grindhouse crap of the early ‘80s. You may recall there was a bit of a kerfuffle over the film’s marketing campaign, which promised deep dark misogyny and maybe, just maybe, a memorable if ugly horror movie (the genre has never given a whit about hurting people’s feelings). But nothing in the movie is felt. If we’re supposed to see Jennifer as a snotty little fashion plate who needs a reality slap, the movie isn’t structured that way. She’s kidnapped for reasons that don’t have a lot to do with her personally. So the film comes off as being impersonal and pointless. We get to watch disgusting things for no apparent reason, and Joffé or Solomon or whoever actually filmed the atrocities don’t seem invested in the carnage. It’s just plopped in front of us like lukewarm macaroni and cheese, and we’re supposed to eat it.

Was this going to be a PG-13 film at one point? I ask because the movie shows us an eyeball and other organs being whipped up in a blender, and then later has a character saying “You sick piece of crap!” to the torturer. That’s where a far stronger choice of language should go, given the context, but sometimes the movie watches its mouth and sometimes it gives us gore, nudity, and F-bombs.

The theatrically released version of "Captivity" may serve one important function, though; it could be shown alongside Joffé’s original cut in film-school classes to show how a good movie can be made bad, or a bad movie can be made worse, by ham-handed businessmen chasing a supposed horror-movie craze that was already dead a year ago.

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