‘Prisoners’ is a smart film that gets awesomely stupid

Hugh Jackman really, really wants an Oscar in "Prisoners." Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Hugh Jackman really, really wants an Oscar in “Prisoners.”
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

‘Prisoners’
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

“Prisoners” wants to be prestigious. It has a cartoonishly qualified cast of award-gobblers, acting their hearts out. It has a director (Denis Villeneuve) hot of an Oscar-nominated drama (“Incendies”). It’s been gorgeously shot by Roger Deakins (usually of Coen Brothers films), who works wonders with dim lighting in digital cinematography. It even starts out as — and stays through most of its first half — one of those anguished War on Terror-era dramas, where good men are driven more by rage than sense to enact foolish vengeance and make everything worse.

But this is all a red herring. What “Prisoners” turns into is a pretty, emphatically-acted turd — a lurid, ridiculous pot-boiler that couldn’t even seem coherent enough for the airport bookstore. There’s a set-up out of a “Death Wish” movie, out to bring the audience’s blood to a boil: Two little girls go missing. All signs point to a mysterious RV dweller, Paul Dano’s Alex Jones (named after the conspiracy theorist, no doubt). But Alex, a man-child of apparent limited IQ, won’t (or can’t) talk, and when the police — led by vaguely unhinged detective Jake Gyllenhaal, actually named Loki — let him go for lack of evidence, one of the dads, the cumbersomely named Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), picks him up, chains him to a radiator and goes Jack Bauer on him. But a single night turns into days then into a week, with no end in sight.

The first half is bluntly effective and tortured, even if it’s cartoonishly loaded. (Don’t drink every time you see a crucifix; you may succumb to alcohol poisoning before the last reel.) The second half is just cartoonish. The script runs square into a wall, and thus starts piling on extraneous, go-nowhere plot threads. There’s a pedo priest with an old corpse rotting in his basement. There’s another, younger pedo, who draws symbolic mazes. There’s something with snakes in cases. And the presence of Melissa, as Alex’s aunt, isn’t typically an omen of nice things to come.

Of course, this is entirely watchable — a real page-turner, if one that makes you feel dirty after and usually during. But it’s sad watching a potentially gut-wrecnhing film turn moronic, and ditto watching fine actors struggle with material that so spectacularly betrays them. Jackman, all hothead shouting followed by anguished praying, is aiming for his Oscar, while Villeneuve’s direction is so heavy it seems the film could fall over and burst into pieces. Had it been a DTV spectacular, directed by a shameless filth merchant, we’d be talking movie of the year.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

South Korea ferry disaster: captain's actions 'tantamount to…

The captain and some crew members of the sunken South Korean passenger ferry Sewol have been accused of 'murderous acts' by their own president, after…

News

Easter Egg hunt horror as skydiver plummets to…

A FAMILY Easter egg hunt ended in horror when a skydiver plummeted to his death in a New York garden after his parachute failed to…

News

Boston Marathon 2014 on high alert, Red Sox…

One year on from the horrific Boston Marathon bombings a ring of steel has been thrown around today's race, and a city stands defiant against…

News

Boston Strong: One year on from Boston Marathon…

  For more than a century the Boston Marathon has been an even centred around sportsmanship, endurance and athleticism, but there's no denying the face…

Television

‘Mad Men’ recap: Season 7, Episode 2, ‘A…

Peggy and Lou are horrible, Bert's racist, Don is honest(ish) and Roger and Pete are frustrated. "A Day's Work" not quite worthy of "This Will Be Our Year."

Television

'Game of Thrones' recap: Season 4, Episode 3,…

The problem with the devil you know is that ignoring them doesn’t mean they simply lie in wait. It allows them time to do things…

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

NHL

Ray Emery steps up in Flyers’ Game 2…

Sure, he allowed two goals in the Rangers’ first four shots Sunday afternoon, but it’s about how you start, not how you finish.

NHL

Flyers come from behind, even series with Rangers

The Flyers overcame a two-goal deficit to get a much-needed win at Madison Square Garden Sunday.

MLB

Phillies get set for four against the Dodgers

The Phillies will face tough starting pitching out west against the Dodgers this week.

MLB

Phillies notebook: Cole Hamels returns this week

The Phillies should receive a big boost when Cole Hamels returns during the Dodgers series.

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.