Friday, June 22, 2007

CAPTIVITY - it's like Chuck D said...

Turn up the radio, They claim that I'm a criminal....

For a rubbish little movie, CAPTIVITY sure has created a big old hoo-ha. Call it misogynstic sleaziness - call it PR genius - the original US poster campaign got canned when the complaints soared. The poster featured lead actress Elisha Cuthbert (annoying Kim Bauer from TV's 24) being "Abducted", "Confined", "Tortured" and then "Terminated". Those of us who'd witnessed Kimmy's whining, stupidity and escape from the cougars were thinking it was karma in action. Over in Blighty, serious film critics roundly panned the movie on the grounds that it was tasteless, sadistic and utterly misconceived. BBC Radio 5's Mark Kermode, who is infamous for his hatred of the PIRATES franchise, said he'd rather watch PIRATES 3 than CAPTIVITY. I paraphrase, but you get the picture. In the cosmic battle of cinematic good versus evil, CAPTIVITY was definitely the spawn of Beelzebub.

Don't believe the hype. CAPTIVITY is not so much conceived out of hatred for women as out of hatred for all intelligent cinema-going life-forms, whatever their gender or species. It's not so much nasty and sleazy as plain old boring-ass DUMB. I mean, it's not even a horror movie, really - more of a thriller. And I say that because I was never horrified. Let me re-iterate, I'm a complete wuss when it comes to horror movies. My tolerance for chills and gore would embarass a three-year old. But I sat through CAPTIVITY in a state of bored calm: never once scared; never once forced to look away from the screen. Doctor007 felt redundant. Redundant and ripped off for £9.25.

Why is that? Part of the explanation for my shock-free viewing experience could be down to the fact that the movie is not directed by a tried and tested horror director. Rather, it's directed, improbably, by Roland "THE KILLING FIELDS" Joffé. And Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Joffé, respected director he may be, does not know diddly about suckering us into empathising with the victims, making us feel tense and apprehensive or scaring the bejesus out of us.

Let's start with the empathy. Casting Kim Bauer as your lead actress alienates any part of the audience that watched 24. This isn't helped by the fact that actress Elisha Cushbert, even unleashed from the Kimmy character, simply can't act. But worst of all - and here's where the writers are on dodgy ground - I don't think we're MEANT to empathise with the lead character. Instead, we're invited to view the character as a cold-hearted bitch who coasted through life as an arrogant model/movie star and in some respect deserves no sympathy. If this is truly what writer Larry Cohen intended, then I guess casting Cuthbert was genius. At any rate, I expected a lot better from the man who penned compelling thrillers PHONE BOOTH and CELLULAR.

As far as raking up the tension goes, CAPTIVITY fails there too. It fails because it opens with a prologue showing some torture. I mean, where do you go from there?! It fails because one of the baddies looks like Harvey Weinstein. (Deliberate?!) It fails because as soon as a certain character is introduced you KNOW there's gonna be a certain plot twist. It fails because DP Daniel Pearl shoots the flick like a R&B music video - all warm honey tones - rather than as a down and dirty horror movie, exempli gratia VACANCY.

Finally, is CAPTIVITY worth seeing for shock value? Is it, like AUDITION, path-breaking horror? No, no and again no. It's not shocking. It's not horrific. Yes, the woman is kidnapped. Yes, she's kept in captivity. Yes, bad things are threatened. But actually, not much happens.

So, don't believe the hype. This movie isn't evil. It's just very, very, very dumb indeed.

CAPTIVITY was released in Russia, Spain and South Korea earlier this year. It is currently on release in the UK. It opens in the US on July 13th, in Singapore on July 26th, in France on August 8th, in Belgium on August 29th and in Italy on August 31st 2007.

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