5 February 2000 | FlickJunkie-2
Taut Crime Thriller
This made for TV psychological crime thriller exceeded my expectations. The story begins with the abduction of a rich wife for ransom. She is buried alive and her abductor sets about collecting the ransom for the location of her grave. However, this is really not the story but only the set up. The real story is about what happens after he is caught as the police and the FBI race against time to get him to reveal where she's buried.
Our sociopathic villain, known to us only as Harry (after his idol Harry Houdini) is well prepared for the psychological cat and mouse game that follows as he had planned what he would do if he were caught. The result is an effective (though often superficial) contest of psychological one upsmanship between Harry (Adrien Brody) and our heroine police detective, Madeline (Maura Tierney).
The story has some noticeable plot flaws for a film that is attempting to be a serious crime drama. Certain elements of Harry's escape attempts are implausible. Much of the dialogue between the police officers and FBI agents was inane drivel that made them look like idiots. There are other problems later in the story involving the buried wife that are also troubling. These are not enough, however, to mar an otherwise well crafted plot.
I was most impressed by the photography, not just the look of the film, but the way the images presented themselves. Director Richard Shepard used the camera very creatively, using objects in foreground and background to dramatize certain images. There was an excellent shot of Madeline's reflection seen in extreme close-up in Harry's eye. The handheld chase scenes made you feel like you were running behind the action. This is a level of directing that is not normally seen on TV. The whole film had a very raw, real look. Things were dirty and disorganized, just like in real life rather than being carefully and symmetrically placed.
The acting ranged from fair to excellent. The cops and the husband were generally pretty mediocre with moments of nausea. Maura Tierney was good but didn't have the range to play Madeline effectively. Madeline's character required a combination of tormented, pathetic self abuser and case hardened cop. Tierney was outstanding at the tormented side, but came across as tentative and flaccid as the cop (which was the greater part of the role).
The best performance comes from Adrian Brody as Harry. He was wry and unsophisticated while being just close enough to the edge to keep you guessing if he was cunning or just a psychopath. He played the part with sarcastic disdain, as if the character thought he was smarter than he really was, which indeed was the case.
Terry Kinney's character, Madeline's cop husband Tim, didn't give him much to work with. He was a wimpy whining loser. Kinney did an adequate job at this portrayal.
I rated this movie 7/10. For those who enjoy a psychological crime thriller, it won't disappoint.