28 June 2002 | bmacv
Hybrid crime drama is parched of any individuality
The Trap grafts a dysfunctional-family drama onto a glorified road-chase movie; it also grafts the shoot-from-the-hip conventions and sun-parched look of the Western onto a late-fifties crime drama. These various components, all vying for our attention, give birth to a hybrid that lacks any individuality.
Prodigal son Richard Widmark turns up in his hometown of Tula, out in the California desert, after a decade's absence. The old homestead, seething with tensions, houses his father (Carl Benton Reid), the town sheriff; his drunken wastrel of a brother (Earl Holliman); and the brother's wife (Tina Louise), an old flame of Widmark's. It seems that Widmark works for the mob as a mouthpiece, come home to persuade his law-and-order dad to call off the police guarding an airfield where crime kingpin Lee J. Cobb will make a break for Mexico. In the ensuing chaos, after his dad gets killed, Widmark decides to bring Cobb to justice himself. Unfortunately, he needs the help of his resentful brother, who in turn needs the cash Cobb offers him....
The trek through the desert to the nearest big town proves a fiendish obstacle course: What with snipers and double-dealings and radiators gone dry, it's just one damn thing after another. The relentless heat and blazing sun suck out much of the movie's juices, too; watching it becomes an endurance contest like being stranded in the desert. Widmark and Cobb walk through their roles with expected professionalism, but do nothing unexpected, either. Holliman telegraphs his vacillating weakness loud and clear, while Tina Louise doesn't bring much to the party (but then again, director Norman Panama didn't ask her to bring much). Once it's over, The Trap just sort of dries up and blows away.