If you’ve lost sleep with helpless rage over the news stories of kidnapped children, you might hope from its previews that Trapped would be a satisfying tale of righteous revenge.
Don’t be fooled. The moviemakers decided that their kidnappers had to be sympathetic. It’s politically incorrect, it seems, to portray bad guys as bad guys — you have to humanize the creeps. So director Mandoki (Angel Eyes) gave woe-is-me team leader, Kevin Bacon, such a pitiful back-story that we can forget he’s a sadistic rapist, kidnapper, and wifebeater. Won’t happen. I’ve watched Danielle van Dam’s parents enough on TV to eschew even one milli-second of sympathy for any kidnapper, much less a whole team for two hours.
Can there be any redeeming qualities in a movie so basically flawed? Actually, yes. Trapped is notable for providing not one but three fantastic female performances. Charlize Theron (The Astronaut’s Wife) is beautiful Karen Jennings, happy wife to rich doctor husband (Stuart Townsend, Queen of the Damned) and mother to charming 6-year old Abby (Dakota Fanning).
Shortly after hubby flies off to a medical conference, Karen confronts kidnapper Joe Hickey (Kevin Bacon, Hollow Man) and the terrifying bane of every mother’s nightmare — her child has been taken. Despite having performed four similar clockwork kidnappings, Hickey’s research on this one was sloppy — he didn’t know that the child is asthmatic. Without her medicine, Abby could die within minutes.
Unlike other victim’s mothers, Theron turns the tables on Kevin Bacon with a sizable self-defense arsenal: cell phone and pager, hidden guns, a scalpel, and low-cut black lingerie. She applies these weapons with an intelligent cool head, creating a heroine that the audience can root for.
Courtney Love (the singer) is the browbeaten but quirky wife of kidnapper Bacon. While Bacon threatens to rape Theron at the family home, Love holds the doctor captive in his hotel room. Like his wife, Dr. Jennings takes matters into his own hands and, using his own patented calm-down drug, he turns a few tables of his own. Love’s performance is positively mesmerizing: half devil, part vixen, you love her, you hate her, she’s probably insane — and you definitely can’t take your eyes off her.
Meanwhile, the third kidnapper, dim-witted Marvin (Pruitt Taylor Vince, Nurse Betty) holds Abby in an isolated cabin in the woods. It must be genetic: Abby isn’t going to suck her thumb and wonder while Marvin tells his stories about other little girl he used to know. Fanning, remarkable as the child in I Am Sam , delivers another endearing performance, finely tuned and completely believable. The child is a real treasure.
In the spectacularly visual but disappointingly un-visceral ending, Mandoki pulls out all his movie director stops and gives seaplanes some great publicity.
– reviewed by Marci Miller