Trapped (2002)

Reviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 01/28/07 11:51:34

"What the hell -- see it for Courtney Love."
3 stars (Average)

Released in the fall of 2002, 'Trapped' had been gathering dust for a while; like 'Hearts in Atlantis,' it bears a dedication to its co-cinematographer, Piotr Sobocinski, who died in early 2001.

One could forgive its leads, Charlize Theron and Kevin Bacon, if they were to forget they're even in the movie; one could excuse the nation's moviegoers for forgetting it has been released, since Trapped wasn't screened for critics and thus has no advance reviews in its favor. This all screams "turkey," yet Trapped is fairly decent for what it is -- a high-strung contraption, or, as Bacon's character describes the situation, "a machine that runs on fear."

I assume one of the reasons for the film's delay was to distance it as much as possible from Panic Room, another claustrophobic thriller whose tension depends on an asthmatic child under duress (Signs also cashed in on this sparkly new cliché; can we now retire it, please?). The wheezing toddler here is Abby Jennings (Dakota Fanning), who could hardly be cuter; she takes after her mom Karen (Theron), though she may have inherited some of her pixieish fragility from her dad Will, played by Stuart Townsend in another performance (after Queen of the Damned) that makes you thank God, or whoever's responsible, that Townsend didn't end up playing Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings as planned. Townsend looks like Hugh Jackman after several years of liquid dieting, yet here he's supposed to be convincing as a brilliant doctor, a pilot, and a challenging foe for Courtney Love.

Ah. Yes. Courtney Love is in this, and I had my doubts about her gracing such a conventional thriller; such qualms were banished the first moment I saw her running her femme fatale number on the blinking Dr. Will, who simply wants to get back to his hotel room and isn't prepared to confront Courtney Love, but then who is? Courtney, we soon learn, is in cahoots with Joe (Bacon) and Marvin (Pruitt Taylor Vince, he of the jiggly eyeballs); they have kidnapped four previous children with success and without harm done, and they plan to make Abby number five. The movie becomes a series of pair-offs: Joe holding Karen at her home, using every ounce of the patented Kevin Bacon oily menace to keep her on the agenda; Marvin watching cartoons at a cabin with Abby; and good old Courtney waving a big suppressed gun around or taking a bath, both of which seem to hold equal terror for the waifish Dr. Will.

I don't mind admitting that the movie, for me, became about Courtney Love. That's the effect she has; on screen as onstage or on disc, she insists on your attention whether you love her or loathe her (and you get the impression she doesn't care which). Her finest moment here is absolutely immobile: Dr. Will gets the drop on her and injects her with some paralyzing (non-fatal) agent, and can you imagine Courtney Love required to stay completely still? I couldn't either, and it's not a pretty sight. We're encouraged to see the kidnappers as a dark mirror image of Karen and Dr. Will, but for Stuart Townsend to compete with Kevin Bacon would mean bundling Bacon up in a laundry bag; and Charlize Theron can cringe and sob with the best of them, which would be impressive if she hadn't done it to a fare-thee-well in Devil's Advocate and The Astronaut's Wife.

Again, for what it is, 'Trapped' is acceptably entertaining, but I very likely wouldn't have enjoyed it as much without its wild card: For those who always wanted to see Courtney Love involved in a highway car chase featuring a plane and a lumber truck, this is your movie.

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