Harvey Critic - 31/03


During the Spanish Inquisition, a time that found people tied to the stake and burned as heretics, a hapless victim could bribe the executioner who would guarantee a quick death by strangulation rather than torture by fire. When Spartacus was crucified, slowly dying in agony, his significant other begged for death to take him away. Against, quick death beats torture.

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IFC Films

Reviewed for Arizona Reporter by Harvey Karten

Grade: C+
Director: Gabe Torres
Screenwriter: Timothy Mannion
Cast: Stephen Dorff, Chyler Leigh, JR Bourne, Tom Berenger, Bobby Tomberlin
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 3/19/12
Opens: March 23, 2012

As for what type of death might be unimaginably horrific today, many would agree that being buried alive could serve on the top-five list, particularly if the torturer were to put a breathing apparatus in top of a coffin to keep the victim alive only to die slowly from starvation and an inability to move. This last situation is (almost) like the fate suffered by Special Agent Jeremy Reins (Stephen Dorff), who wakes up in the trunk of a car without knowing the whys and wherefores of his claustrophobic imprisonment.

Turns out that Agent Reins is one of the few who know the location of the President's bunker, to which the Chief Executive and a group of top politicos might repair during a severe emergency. Some bad guys want to know this location, though one wonders who this information would do any good considering that POTUS would be guarded by security and surrounded by impregnable walls deeper than even Iran's nuclear plants. But never mind: that's just one of the plot holes devised by Gabe Torres, copying his images, perhaps, from Ryan Reynolds's performance Rodrigo Cortés's "Buried," a 2010 movie that finds Paul Conroy, a truck driver in Iraq, buried alive in a box with only a cigarette lighter and cell phone for company.

As writer Timothy Mannion seeks suspense through the prism settled in "Buried," Agent Reins (Stephen Dorff) has only a radio transmitter and later a flashlight and a cell phone to use to try to work out an escape from the car trunk. At first the victimizers are silent, though Reins is able to communicate with another agent in a similar predicament, discovering shortly thereafter that there may be at least seven agents prodded by the enemy for the location of the bunker. Ultimately they have allegedly kidnapped his estranged wife, Molly ( Chyler Leigh), which should surely lead the agent to spill the beans but no: he's an All-American Hero ready to die and to sacrifice his wife to allow the President and his band to survive. He swore an oath, and by golly, he'll let nothing stand in the way of this rigid morality.

Dorff turns out a mighty performance as the victim, who waits out the digital clock from 4.00 minutes to 0, then back to 4.00 minutes and again to zero, but at times he is surprised when time runs out and terrible things happen. He is attacked by a swarm of bees sent through the car trunk; he overhears the gunning down of a police officer who has stopped the car and who seems ready to take action to free the agent who is now kicking and yelling up a storm.

In the end, get ready for twist time. However, given the nature of what could be transmitted better as a virtually one-man off-Broadway play-with James Mathers camera doing little work in contrast to Dorff's writhing, sweating, screaming performance-the audience might be tempted to step outside for air (which would be a sign that the story is working) but more important could be tuckered out by the minimalism of the affair.

Rated R. 92 minutes. © 2011 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online.

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