The first half of Luis (Angel Eyes) Mandoki’s new thriller is as whiteknuckle, nerve-wracking as they come. The second is such a mishmash of overblown action and gaping plotholes, it’s hard to believe it’s the work of the same director.
The upside is Kevin Bacon, who’s once again in scummy psycho mode here. You’ve got to give the guy credit: few actors are in his league when it comes to switchhitting. He can emanate the essence of boy-next-door wholesomeness ( “Footloose”, “Apollo 13”) and he can wig out with the weirdest of them (“The River Wild”, “Sleepers”). In “Trapped” he’s a cold-hearted freak convinced he’s devised the foolproof kidnap-for-ransom scheme. He and his berserko bride (Courtney Love) each take the parent of a privileged kid hostage in a separate location. Meanwhile, the third member of the outfit-a hair-trigger teddybear played by Pruitt Taylor Vince-holds the child in a secluded cabin. The three communicate every 30 minutes by cell phone to make sure things are proceeding as planned. Any snafus and the tyke is taken out.
The key to the scheme is the separation of husband and wife, allowing for one to wire money to the other, thereby avoiding the traditional ransom pick up stage at which most kidnappers are nabbed. In the past, Bacon and company have always kept their end of the bargain. Once the money’s in hand, families have been set free to reunite and carry on with their lives. When he confronts Charlize Theron in her lakeside home one afternoon, however, Bacon alone knows that this time will be different. Unlike previous abductions, this one’s personal.
Bacon and Love, we learn, have suffered the loss of a young child themselves as the result of an accident on the operating table. About the time we learn this, the movie starts to go murky on us. We’re never quite sure what the daughter’s death had to do with mom and dad’s taking up a life of crime. Love’s character in particular loses focus at about this point and her motivations are fuzzy from here on out. All we’re certain of is that Bacon blames the loss of his kid on Theron’s husband, an anesthesiologist played by Stuart Townsend and Townsend in turn points the finger at the doctor who performed the operation.
What started out as a taut contest of wills between Bacon and Theron, deteriorates into a protracted and borderline silly chase sequence. The paths of all involved converge literally on a crowded highway in a manner which would have proven comic had it not been for the fact that the little girl’s life was still at stake. Movie critic law prohibits my being more specific. Suffice it to say, the final act turns into such an over the top action free for all, Vin Diesel would not have seemed out of place amid the cartoon mayhem.
Which is a shame because the picture had promise. The movie achieves maximum creepiness early on when an incensed Theron defies the figure who has turned her life upside down. Sincerely puzzled, Bacon poses the question “Do you think you live in a world where little girls don’t get killed?” It’s a moment in which reality and cinema intersect to chilling effect.
A few more moments as potent as that and “Trapped” might not have wound up a waste of time.