26 June, 2007

Word of Mouth: "Captivity"

A model is sedated at a nightclub and wakes to find she is in a cell and has been captured by a mysterious bloke.

Captivity gained controversy in the States due to its advertising which was considered so graphic that the industry self-regulator banned it from advertising for a month. But the producer just pushed the release date back to 13 July.

The producer is now making this a debate about freedom of expression and is trying to set up meetings with feminists. That raises an interesting question: where is the line that shouldn’t be crossed? Should there be a line that shouldn’t be crossed? Unfortunately this film is such utter shite even a misogynist torturer would have difficulty defending it.

I honestly had no idea the film would be so bad when I saw it. The blurb indicated a Saw rip-off but with Larry Cohen writing and Roland Joffé directing I assumed it had more to it but it’s shallower than Charley from Big Brother.

We don’t get to know the lead character and so when she is in captivity, we don’t really care all that much. Sure, you think ‘that’s not very nice’ but an audience needs more than that usually. It’s the difference between your friend dying of hunger and someone in Africa dying of hunger. Extreme example, but who will you care more about? But find out that stranger's name, their hopes, dreams and desires and even though there is no personal connection you can't help but care.

But the real problem is that once she is captured the character doesn’t act like you or I would do in that situation. This extends to the baddie as well - what does he actually want and is what he’s doing really the best way of going about it? It is such an elaborate expensive scheme, it doesn’t really make sense.

What they haven’t realised is that what made Saw so popular wasn’t the torture but why the character wanted to do the torture and how characters reacted to the threat of torture. The baddie in Saw was actually trying to do good and help people - it’s just the kind of help that, given the choice, you might be inclined to decline.

According to the trades there was a version shown at festivals which was better but the producer persuaded Roland Joffé to add more torture. But the torture isn’t the issue – it’s actually pretty tame and lame - it’s the structure, story and characters.

There’s a twist which might have made it more interesting but it was merely the start of even more unbelievable bollocks. Normally I would have walked out at several points earlier but I was curious to see how they could possibly resolve it satisfactorily. Obviously, they couldn’t.

I can’t go into details without spoilers but everything stems from under-developed characters doing things which don’t make sense just to move the plot along. Towards the end the events are so laughable they wouldn't have looked out of place in a spoof.

I can’t recommend seeing this film, not because it’s misogynist but because it’s a mess.

New York Times article
Joe Carnahan blog – The Torture Porn Thing


Oli said...

Whilst Larry Cohen's CV has a longevity that most wrtiers would maim for, it's not like it's all quality... Maniac Cop, anyone? A movie where someone is suspected of being a killer because they "took a mental test"?

That is a genuine line from Maniac Cop. I watched it last Halloween.

I can't claim to have seen everything he's written, but I will give him Phone Booth. That's ace. It does show a worrying prelediction with toruturing people to make them better though...

Robin Kelly said...

That's true, but the problems seemed like such newbie problems and not ones someone of his experience should make. Even though he can get away with half-arsed efforts, it's a bit insulting to the audience.