Mark Reviews Movies

CAPTIVITY

1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Roland Joffé

Cast: Elisha Cuthbert, Daniel Gilles, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Michael Harney, Laz Alonso, Chrysta Olson

MPAA Rating: R (for strong violence, torture, pervasive terror, grisly images, language and some sexual material)

Running Time: 1:25

Release Date: 7/13/07


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Review by Mark Dujsik

There's a lot of prerelease controversy surrounding Captivity, and if you believe the studio hype machine, it's because the movie is so disturbing, grotesque, immoral, and degrading, the MPAA didn't want anyone to see it.  Well, don't buy into the hype.  Captivity was really in trouble because it put out ads that weren't approved by the MPAA, and when the ads subsequently earned some complaints, the movie was close to not receiving a rating.  It's rated R, and it's not anywhere as disturbing, grotesque, immoral, or degrading as, say, the Hostel movies.  Sure, it is all of those adjectives, but Captivity is primarily bad as a result of plain, old inept writing.  Screenwriters Larry Cohen and Joseph Tura's idea of character development is listening to a girl and guy whimper, cry, and call out for help with increasing levels of intensity, and when the movie actually puts the characters in situations where they aren't quarry for a torturous psycho, they reveal themselves to be as a dumb as a box of rocks but without the personality.  Add to that the fact that the "torture porn" genre reveals itself as just another series of clichés here, and the movie is more dull than upsetting—repetitive than worth condemnation.

The movie opens with an unseen maniac mixing plaster of Paris, placing it on a random guy's face, draining out the victim's blood, and finishing him off with a sledgehammer.  Yeah, it's one of those movies.  That same killer is driving through New York City, seeing our heroine Jennifer (Elisha Cuthbert), a model and actress, plastered everywhere, while at the same time, she is preparing for a photo shoot.  She has a little dog, and she wants a day off that she can't have.  That's the extent of what you'll learn about her, so deal with it, I guess.  Anyway, she goes to a club where the concealed killer places a drug in her appletini and kidnaps her.  She awakens in a room, made to look like her apartment, complete with all her fixings, and after lots of grunting, moaning, screaming, and throwing stuff around, she's knocked unconscious by gas.  She wakes up again and is bound to a table, where she watches video of a girl being burnt by acid.  That's a bait and switch, though, and she's back in the room unharmed.

This process repeats itself a lot over the course of the movie.  There's a scene of Jennifer in her cell.  She's drugged.  The screen fades to black.  Fade in on a new torture scene.  Fade to black.  She wakes up in her cell.  Repeat.  There's a constant dripping in her cell, reminiscent of Chinese water torture, and after the second or third time the movie repeats the above listed formula, it begins to feel the same way.  The torture sequences are obviously problematic in their misogyny and the way director Roland Joffé lingers so long on the occasionally gruesome images and Jennifer's suffering, but these are problems inherent to the genre anyway.  There's nothing scary about this stuff, and it's disturbing only in the distant consideration that people wrote it.  People who like this gore-infested tripe will probably be disappointed nonetheless.  There's not so much blood and guts, save for the disgusting video of the girl being showered in acid and a strange scene where the kidnapper throws a bunch of bloody organs and body parts into a blender only to force the tomato-soup-looking substance down Jennifer's throat.  Otherwise, it attempts psychological fear, such as a scene where Jennifer is slowly covered in sand or another in which she has to choose between her life and her dog's.

In the midst of the redundant torture, she meets Gary (an overacting Daniel Gillies), a fellow prisoner in the cell next to hers, and it's unintentionally amusing when their relationship turns romantic (For the love of Pete, there's even sex scene.).  It shouldn't ruin any surprise to note that Gary obviously isn't what he seems, and it's with this turn of events that the script goes into full-out dumb mode.  We learn a bit about the hooded killer in a home movie hinting at incest at the hands of his mother (Chrysta Olson), but it's more curious as to who actually shot the film in the first place.  There's another unsurprising twist involving the home film, but still, the question remains: Who shot that thing?  When the movie finally gets away from the prison cell mentality of the torture scenes, we finally get a bit of character development.  Unfortunately, it's that the movie is populated by a bunch of dumbasses.  The killer's an idiot, letting two cops (Michael Harney and Laz Alonso) wander his house and leaving a vital clue in a conveniently unclosed cabinet.  Even Jennifer becomes stupid, not immediately calling the cops when she gets a chance, actually following along with a too-suspicious clean-up plan, and leaving a perfectly placed gun in its holster.

Not even Pruitt Taylor Vince, making an appearance as a deviant, can salvage anything from this material, but that might be because he's only in it for about three minutes.  Captivity really should be offensive for its substance, but its predictability and idiocy leave the worse taste in one's mouth.

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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