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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

CARJACKED -- DVD review by porfle

Having just watched CARJACKED (2011), I must admit feeling a little confused.  I can't decide if the filmmakers were actually trying to make a serious thriller, or if they were aware that they were making one of the dumbest movies I've seen in quite a while.  Either way, it isn't much fun until it decides to go full-out goofy in the second half.

The story opens with divorced mom Lorraine (Maria Bello, THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR, PAYBACK) attending a touchy-feely women's group therapy session.  Dumped by her husband Gary and facing a losing custody battle over their son Chad, Lorraine is too much of a simpy doormat to fight back or get angry about it as her brassy session mate Betty (Joanna Cassidy in an ultra-brief role) urges her to do.  When she relates how she earned the nickname "Klutzy" by accidentally shooting her dad's friend in the ass at the gun range, her counselor asks, "How did that make you feel?"  Yikes.

Already an emotional wreck, all she needs is for her and Chad to be carjacked by an escaped bank robber named Roy (Steven Dorff, BLADE, PUBLIC ENEMIES) on their way home, which of course is what happens.  Forced to drive Roy to a rendezvous 350 miles away, Lorraine somehow makes a connection with the chatty criminal and shares her feelings with him instead of being totally terrified like a normal person would.  Thus, we're not really all that scared for her and apart from a couple of halfhearted escape attempts, little suspense is generated by her ordeal.  At one point she even seems to consider running off to Mexico with Roy and his money.

Maria Bello, whom I've always considered a pretty good actress, is pretty awful as Lorraine.  Never convincing as a kidnap victim, she plays the role with a series of weird expressions and nervous tics, occasionally getting a comically peeved look when Roy says something threatening or offensive.  We expect Lorraine to eventually turn the tables on Roy, which will be just the thing to boost her confidence and assertiveness, but she's remarkably stupid--during an attempt to call 911 on her cellphone while in the bathroom, she gets 411 instead and can't understand why the operator keeps asking, "What city, please?" 

At first, Dorff plays Roy as the most patient and non-threatening carjacker in movie history, reducing his character's menace during the film's first half and even coming off as sympathetic while talking with Lorraine--for awhile there, it seemed this was going to turn into a road trip movie.  It's only later that we find he enjoys lulling his victims into a false sense of security before doing something horrible to them, as Lorraine discovers when they finally reach the rendezvous. 

At that point, it looked as though CARJACKED was finally going to turn into a tense thriller, but instead it seems to morph into a black comedy designed to have us thinking "WTF?"  In addition to some comical rednecks at a truckstop (the kind played by actors who have never actually seen a real one), we get a car chase that looks like something out of a Hal Needham movie followed by some highly improbable hijinks in a deserted warehouse.  With believability well and truly thrown out the window, all that remains is for the film to end with a wrap-up scene that seems to have been written under the influence of laughing gas.

John Bonito's direction is okay if somewhat self-indulgent at times, although that thing where the camera does those little zoopy zoom-ins on a character's face while they're driving doesn't even look good when Michael Bay and Paul W.S. Anderson do it.  Acting-wise, Dorff is okay while Cassidy isn't in the film long enough to make an impression.  Bello is hard to figure out--she seems aware that the film is going to turn into a semi-comedy in the second half, but since we don't know that, her performance seems curiously flaky throughout.  I kept thinking, "I hope she's in better form taking over Helen Mirren's role in PRIME SUSPECT."

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with English 5.1 and Spanish mono sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  The sole extra is a very brief behind-the-scenes short.

After a so-so start, the last twenty minutes or so of CARJACKED are so unexpectedly nutty that I actually began to enjoy it on that level.  But I still can't figure out if the filmmakers were trying to make a serious thriller and failed, or if they were just messing with my head the whole time.

Buy it at


Anonymous said...

Michael, I want to read your original script! Can't wait to OWN a copy of the movie! :D Arthur woulda been proud .. I am :)

Julia in STL

Anonymous said...

Maria was awful in this film but I'll be damned if I wasn't entertained. I like that the film finally went haywire. That's when it became most interesting. I had no idea what was going to happen next!