Thursday, December 11, 2014

Egoyan’s The Captive

Its population is less than ninety thousand, but evidently organized pedophilia a growing danger in Niagara Falls, Ontario. They now have a sizable police task force working full time on such crimes. The leader even becomes an Oprah style celebrity. However, they have not produced sterling results. After eight years, Matthew Lane’s daughter Cass is still missing. Past his breaking point, the desperate father is more than willing to take the law into his own hands, if he can finally find a target in Atom Egoyan’s The Captive (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.

It has been a hard eight years for Lane and his wife Tina. She still blames him for their daughter’s abduction and so does he. He only briefly popped out to pick up a pie while she rested in the back seat of his truck after ice skating practice. Tragically, it was long enough for the pederast ringleader stalking them. As the years advanced and their marriage imploded, Tina started seeing Det. Nicole Dunlop for counseling, but her partner (and lover) Det. Jeff Cornwall still suspects Lane sold his daughter to a pedophile ring, because he reminds him of a guy he used to know. Seriously, that’s the best he can do after eight years?

Of course, Lane’s investigative techniques basically amount to him driving around looking for something suspicious, but he is still more effective than the cops, who will make a series of spectacular blunders. Eventually, Det. Dunlop will wind up in peril herself, following a head-scratchingly unlikely chain of events.

Frankly, it is a real shame Captive morphs into such a klutzy thriller, because Ryan Reynolds’ lead performance could have been a career game-changer in a tighter, more grounded film. He really digs in and digs deep as Lane. You feel his pain and his rage, without any cheap theatrics. He also makes the thriller mechanics work better than they deserve to, particularly an oblique confrontation with his daughter’s abductor late in the game.

Conversely, Kevin Durand is an excellent actor, but his performance as Mika, the pervert ringleader is beyond caricature. Everything about him, from his affected voice to his sinister sliver of a moustache screams “Chester Molester.” Yet, he still hob nobs with Niagara Falls’ elite without anyone getting suspicious. Rosario Dawson is reasonably competent as Det. Dunlop. She may not look like she is from Niagara Falls, Ont., but diversity in Canadian cinema is a good thing. As if on cue, Scott Speedman also turns up, underwhelming us as Cornwall, arguably the worst cop ever who wasn’t on the take, just to remind everyone this is a Canadian film.

There was a time during the mid-1990s and early 2000s people who did not normally patronize festivals and art cinemas still went to Egoyan’s films because they were so widely acclaimed and zeitgeisty. What a difference three or four films make. Many of his regular themes are still present and accounted for, but the narrative twists are rather clunky and therefore dashed difficult to buy into. Reynolds’ work is legitimately award caliber, but it really needs Ice-T and Richard Belzer. If you have DirecTV, it is almost worth watching just to see how Paul Sarossy’s uncompromisingly icy cinematography conflicts with the otherwise lurid vibe, but it is hard to recommended The Captive when it opens tomorrow (12/12) in New York, at the Village East.