Friday, February 24, 2023

12 Desperate Hours, on Lifetime

Ann Rule fans might not recognize this title. It is drawn from her true crime collection Last Dance, Last Chance, but it is not the novella about the nefarious plastic surgeon that had the lion share of the page-count. Instead, it is one of two shorter pieces chronicling the crimes of parolees, who in retrospect, never should have been released. Denny Tuohmy definitely poses a danger to Val Jane and her two young sons when he takes them hostage in Gina Gershon’s 12 Desperate Hours, which premieres tomorrow night on Lifetime.

Val and Mark Jane have a nice suburban home, but money has been tight and their marriage is maybe getting a little stale. Then one morning, after he already left for work, she answers the door to find a sawed-off shotgun pointed in her face. At first, Tuohmy wants to wait for Jane to come home, so he can carjack him, but the worried mother convinces him to take her and her mom-SUV instead.

With Mother Jane as his chauffeur, hostage, and reluctant accomplice, Tuohmy sets out looking for the ex-girlfriend he is convinced still loves him. Their first fateful stop will be her mother’s house, who tells Tuohmy exactly what she thinks of him, in brutally honest terms. This could be a mistake.

Despite the Ann Rule brand,
12 Desperate Hours is pretty standard TV-movie stuff, starting with the flat, pedestrian direction from Gershon, the Showgirls thesp. However, she has a bit of a fresh take on the familiar hostage scenario. While Val never develops a full case of Stockholm syndrome, she had some sympathy for her captor—enough to try to broker a peaceful solution to their drama.

Harrison Thomas is by far the best thing going for the film. He humanizes Tuohmy, while still making him twitchy and unnerving. Thomas makes the stalker creepy, but sad. Samantha Mathis looks believably mom-like as Val Jane, while David Conrad is surprisingly engaging as her alarmed husband. The cast is professional grade, but the bare-bones production does not do any of them any favors.

Tuohmy had some bad breaks, but that does not excuse his appallingly bad choices. That is sort of the point of Gershon’s TV-movie. The cast does what they can, but the package is pretty underwhelming. Not recommended,
12 Desperate Hours airs Saturday night (2/25) on Liifetime.