Thursday, March 3, 2011

'The Abducted' is saved by its stars

The Abducted (aka "Match.Dead") (2011)
Starring: James Ray, Kathleen Benner, and Michael Harrelson
Director: Jon Bonnell
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

A serial killer (Ray) abducts a young woman (Benner) he met through an online dating site. After deciding he loves her, he forgoes his usual habit of murder, and he tries to win her affection through violence and terrifying mind games. Will she escape, or will she end up as just another victim?

"The Abducted" is a movie that's elevated by a actors that ALMOST manage to transcend the weakness of the material the are working with. The idea behind the film is an interesting one--it takes the basic framework of the countless torture porn movies that have been spewed forth into the direct-to-DVD market and onto the big screen since the surprise hit "Saw" but uses it for a psychological thriller instead of a disgusting sadistic gore-fest--but the execution is lacking.

The biggest flaw with the film is that we never get any insight into the film's villain, Ridley, and why he does what he does. Nor do we ever gain an understanding of the tortured heroine, Valora, even if we get several flashbacks to her childhood, which the writer and director presumably felt would explain why she was able fight her abductor and why he saw a kindred spirit in her. Because the villain and the heroine both remain unknowns to us, much of the potential emotional of the film never materializes. The battle of wills between the two characters feels a bit hollow and even the murder of the girl's grandfather feels like nothing more than a badly motivated excuse for some splatter and melodrama, because we know even less about the grandfather than we do the heroine.

While it's good for a movie to hit the ground running, it would have been nice if there would have been a little more set-up of the characters in this film. Specifically, how the main characters met, and why someone who seems as appealing and strong-minded as the kidnap victim had to resort to online dating to find love? All this could have been accomplished with just a few minutes at the beginning, perhaps even showing the two characters meeting after their online connection. (All the promotional material for the film references online dating and the initial meeting of the two main characters, so I wonder that material never made it into the movie.)

More background on the main characters would also have helped make the ending seem more satisfying, because as it stands Valora's transformation is very, very lame. (The ending also made me wonder: Why do so many action and horror films end with the villains getting killed? In so many movies, it would be a far worse punishment for the bad guy to go through the humiliation of trial and imprisonment. Death is the easy way out. It most cases, the justice isn't even poetic, nor barely even justice.)

It's a shame the script here ins't stronger, because James Ray and Kathleen Benner both give fine performances, and they each have enough charisma together and apart to carry the film despite its flaws. This is the second time I've seen Ray play an unpleasant bad-ass (the other time being in "Fable", a film which also happened to feature Benner in a small part), and I think he if all goes well for him he might find himself a prominent spot in the pantheon of cinematic heavies.

"The Abducted" will see wide release on DVD on March 7. My thanks to the good folks at Brain Damage Films for supplying me with an advanced copy.