Volume 96, Issue 16
Wednesday, September 25, 2002

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Theron and Bacon Trapped in a bad plot

Starring: Charlize Theron, Kevin Bacon, Courtney Love, Stuart Townsend
Directed by: Luis Mandoki

By Ryan Grosman
Gazette Writer

Photo by Columbia Pictures

Surprise, surprise – it's yet another kidnapping movie! Though Trapped attempts to distance itself from the traditional Hollywood kidnapping film, it fails miserably.

Normally, the kidnappers will snatch a kid coming home from school and then call the emotional parents from a remote location. Sometimes, the kidnappers will even use a device which distorts their voice when they call the parents with ransom instructions.

However, in Trapped, kidnapper Joe Hickey (Kevin Bacon) abducts the daughter of Karen Jennings (Charlize Theron) and her husband Will (Stuart Townsend) right from their home while Will is off on a business trip. Their daughter is taken away by Joe's cousin, while Joe sticks around to explain the rules to the frantic Karen. The process, which Joe describes as "a machine built on fear," will take 24 hours, with the ransom being provided in the end.

At the same time, Karen's husband is held hostage during his business trip by Joe's third accomplice and wife, Cheryl (Courtney Love). Joe claims to be the smartest kidnapper ever, suggesting he has a fool-proof plan and he won't get caught – words which have been uttered by many bad guys throughout Hollywood history.

Also, as the movie progresses, it appears Joe wants more from the seductive Karen than just money. In the end, despite the effort to make a kidnapping film that is different from the rest, it turns out to be a typical Hollywood film.

Sometimes good directing can transform an average film into a much better one. However, in Trapped, Luis Mandoki's lacklustre directing only contributes to the problem. For example, Mandoki uses a filter for the opening scene of the film, which gives everything a bright, yet greyish, hue. This distortion, combined with a shaky hand-held camera and an excessive use of extreme close-ups, creates a scene that is both confusing and difficult to view.

In addition, throughout the entire film, the same shaky camera work is employed in every dramatic scene. One of the most dizzying and nauseating scenes in the film occurs when Joe first converses with Karen after the abduction of her daughter. Throughout their entire dialogue, the camera swings back and forth from Karen to Joe. This is a dramatic moment in the film – Karen's daughter has just been taken away from her and she is hysterical. Therefore, there is no need to throw in Blair Witch-esque camera movements to sell the drama. The audience's popcorn bag should only need to be used for one purpose alone – to hold popcorn.

The only good thing about this film is the acting – in fact, it is the acting alone that salvages two stars for this film. Theron, Townsend, Bacon and Love all display remarkable talent. Theron, often known for her revealing roles (The Devil's Advocate), plays the part of a distressed mother and wife perfectly. Particularly good are the realistic emotions she displays for her helpless daughter and the obvious distaste that she has for Bacon's character, who repeatedly makes sexual advances towards her.

Film veteran Bacon, who has had practice playing the part of the bad guy (Hollow Man, Wild Things, The River Wild), does an excellent job of playing the part of the over-confident, ill-mannered, evil kidnapper who has a hidden agenda. In other words, he is a very convincing bad guy.

Dakota Fanning, playing the eight-year-old daughter, delivers a strong performance. Although she has a small role, she portrays her plight convincingly.

Overall, this film is not worth seeing in theatres. On the up-side, at least it's not another war movie.


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