Wednesday, September 25, 2013


"Incendies" director Denis Villeneuve, whose sensibility is to try to make the audience turn away, moves to America for "Prisoners," about the torturous extremes to which a prepper dad (Hugh Jackman) takes his vigilantism when his daughter and, oh by the way, that of their black best friends (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) go missing, apparently abducted by the mentally retarded young man a few doors down (Paul Dano). You know how I feel about Dano as an actor, but even I wouldn't wish the brutal beatings and scalding showers Jackman inflicts on him here.

A trio of strong performances keep you in "Prisoners'" grip despite its 153-minute length and the snakes, pig's blood, and occultish iconography Villeneuve throws at you. Melissa Leo shows an unexpected side in a small part as Dano's aunt; Jake Gyllenhaal quietly commands the screen as the introspective investigative detective; and Jackman, in a boisterous spectacle of a part that could easily have fallen into camp, instead makes his Keller Dover credible, if far from sympathetic. 

Does everything in the story add up? If you want it to, yes; if you don't want it to, no. It's the kind of movie to see before, not after, dinner; you'll have lots of plot points to rehash and plenty to argue about. (The IMDb message board already runs to thousands of posts.) But with few characters developed in any depth (the women, including Maria Bello as Jackman's wife, are especially underdrawn), don't expect to remember it a month from now.

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