Monday, June 28, 2010

One A Week Reviews #27: Stolen

A thrilling, sobering thriller reviewed for, this one is definitely worth checking out!

Golden Globe Award winner Jon Hamm of Mad Men stars as Detective Tom Adkins, a devoted cop haunted by the unsolved disappearance of his young son eight years earlier. But when Adkins discovers the buried remains of a boy who was brutally murdered more than half a century ago, he becomes obsessed with investigating the long-forgotten crime. Is the 1958 mystery surrounding down-on-his-luck family man Matthew Wakefield (Josh Lucas of Glory Road) and his own abducted son linked in any way to Adkins' tragedy? And even if Adkins can prove a connection, can he face the shocking truth about the killer? Rhona Mitra (Boston Legal, Doomsday), Morena Baccarin (Serenity) and James Van Der Beek co-star in this harrowing thriller about the parallel lives of two men for whom secrets will not stay hidden when hope has been Stolen.
There's a kind of pornography to the exploitation of parental fears that comes with any film about desperate searches for kidnapped children. Even when well done, I feel there's a cheapness to it, and I don't even have kids. It's such a raw, crazy, vast fear to even try and conceptualize that it does, at least, make it easy for a movie to gain the sympathies of an audience. Stolen (aka Stolen Lives) illustrates idea that a stranger can enter the world of a family and rip it's very center apart twice over.
When Tommy Adkins vanishes on the 4th of July, his parents are at a loss until the discovery eight years later of a similar body that's been buried for fifty but with some of the same clues opens up parallel storylines of loss. His father is a Police Detective who, never able to find his own son, grasps onto solving this long-past mystery as a way to perhaps find a key to getting answers.
Fifty years prior, Matthew Wakefield finds himself in dire financial straits with a suicidal wife and three young sons. As he makes sacrifices for his family, he crosses paths with a married woman and a mystery man who's stalking his son. Solving the mystery of what happened to the Wakefields may just help Detective Adkins find answers in his own son's disappearance.
Non-linear storytelling skips us across 2000 to present day to 1958 to the parole hearing of one Bert Rogianni, who may or may not have taken Tommy. For a first film, director Anders Anderson keeps the story moving, the audience engaged and has an excellent eye. The pace is a slow build, but smooth. enough that you won't mind the pacing. Be warned that things get dark and chilling as the film unfolds with the structure of a well-written mystery novel.
Jon Hamm and Josh Lucas both turn in good work here as stalwart, all-American fathers under unimaginable pressures. Rhona Mitra, however, has been presented as an exotic European Sex Vixen for so long that it's hard to buy her as a tortured small-town mother, and sadly that typecasting overshadows a decent performance. Even worse, an American accent does not suit when you have a voice and accent like hers. It's also hard to get past Morena Baccaran's looks to see her as a frowsy 50's housewife with an oppressive husband. Joanna Cassidy, a very naturalistic James Van Der Beek, and the underrated character actresses Beth Grant and Kali Rocha put in welcome appearances. Don't let the don't let the heavy handed names get to you (Matthew's sons are mark Luke and John. A trio of women named Pearl, Coral, and Rose) and in you're in for a treat of a potboiler.
Also: don't read the imdb page for this film before you watch it. The cast list alludes to major spoilers.

Stolen is presented in widescreen format with English Dolby 5.1 Audio and subtitles in both English and Spanish. The DVD also includes a 12 minute "Behind the Scenes" featurette and trailers for Life in Flight, Uncertainty, Five Minutes of Heaven, Swedish Auto and The Good, The Bad, The Weird.

Stolen tells a pair of parallel kidnapping stories that strike at a parent's worst fears and illustrate how the repercussions of crimes change lives forever. Just don't look at the imdb page, since it includes a spoiler and pay attention as the non-linear storytelling leads you through the film's novelistic structure. A well-crafted quality entertainment, but also a very dark film.



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