Prisoners got a lot of hype, a lot of publicity, generally good reviews, and even some award nominations. How, I wonder, can that happen with a film that is not only poorly constructed and poorly made, but poorly— and I think cynically— conceived. Even the acting is merely serviceable, including a performance by the usually flawless Viola Davis, perhaps because she’s a secondary character. To control my temper about this sluggish, mean-spirited, and interminable movie, I’ve confined myself to 10 of its worst flaws, in fittingly muddled order:
10. Rain. Constant rain and snow. The story is gloomy, I get it. Does it also have to be relentlessly dark and poorly lit? No, it does not. That approach often hides sloppy production values, which is likely the case here.
9. Speaking of color… the culturally achromatic African-American family is virtually interchangeable in terms of speech patterns, home aesthetics, and everything else, with the white family. It’s suburban blah. Oh, except that Terence Howard’s character plays the trumpet. On the up side, Viola Davis doesn’t cry as much as she did in Doubt, so there’s a lot less snot.
8. Okay, I know this will be about as popular as saying that Ryan
Gosling actually looks like a gosling (which he does), but here goes:
Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance reminds me, as his performances usually do, of Dorothy Parker’s remark about a Katharine Hepburn stage performance (The Lake, 1934), that she ran the gamut of emotions from A to B. Given how dumb his character is, Gyllenhaal’s doleful mug almost works. Still, you wish an animal expression would cross his countenance every now and then.
7. Nobody locks their doors. Even after the girls go missing, one of
the possible bad guys walks into each victim’s house, while people are
at home, and steals items. Easy peasy.
6. The Paul Dano character endures 10 hours of interrogation by Gyllenhaal, and after he is released, suddenly whispers a clue to Hugh
Jackman (one of the kidnapped girls’ fathers), which no one else can hear, and, as a result, no one believes. The result is Jackman capturing and torturing Dano for a week — and he still won’t talk. Why not? He knows the answers… [to continue, click Page 2, below]