Trapped
Grade: C+
Year: 2002
Director: Luis Mandoki
Writer: Greg Iles
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Rated: PG-13

The Jennings are a happy family. Will (Stuart Townsend) is a loving father and a passionate husband to his beautiful wife, Karen (Charlize Theron). He is a doctor, and has created a new drug that causes paralysis to his patients in seconds. They live in a beautiful home in the woods next to a lake, where Will flies his private Cessna and performs tricks to the amusement of his six year old daughter, Abby (Dakota Fanning).

They are a perfect family. Too bad something terribly awful is about to happen. While Will has flown off to a medical conference to promote his new medical breakthrough, Karen and Abby have been left home alone. Director Luis Mandoki wasted no time getting into the action just minutes into the movie. Two kidnappers break into their home, and kidnap young Abby.

When Karen starts to wonder why her daughter hasnít returned from getting the laundry, she starts to look for her and runs into Joe Hickey (Kevin Bacon). He tells her that Abby has been kidnapped, and she will be returned alive if the Jennings follow their instructions and agree to cooperate.

Trapped, not nearly as good as Breakdown, is like a beautiful stack of three scoop ice cream that unfortunately falls through the soggy cone. It started off well, and then became a 1 and Ĺ hour soap opera by the end. But it isnít awful; it isnít bad. But the producers gave it no chance for early success by not releasing it for a pre-release critics screening.

After a short period of freaking out because her daughter was kidnapped, Joe finally calms her down enough to explain why they abducted her daughter, and to tell her that she is in the care of his cousin Marvin (Pruitt Taylor Vince). Well if you havenít guess already, itís because the Jennings are a wealthy family, and Abby will be safely returned once the Jennings fork over $250,000. But as Joe explains, it isnít that simple. The process has to take 24 hours, no more or no less.

The cast is solid. Bacon does his typical bad guy role well, although his best is The River Wild by far. Courtney Love, thatís right; Courtney Love does a surprisingly well job as the third man in the crime family. She comes off as a fan of Willís work in order to get his attention after the conference, and quickly shows her evil side as soon as he turns her down for a date. Theron is always a mess worried for her daughter's life, which doesnĎt help the temperamental Joe, who is never more than fifteen feet away from her throughout the entire movie. But the real star is the young Dakota Fanning, eight years old in real life, and was exceptional as the confused kidnapped girl.

As I said, Joeís job is to stay with Karen, and explains to her that they have kidnapped four times before, all of them resulting in a safe return. But the plot thickens. Abby has asthma, and canít breath when excited without her medicine. Uh oh.

While intense periodically, Trapped is never a real gripping thriller, nor does it ever keep you locked in for too long. One of the bad guys is too nice, and the others feel that they are in too much control to have to be worried about being rough. For one, we know they have a history of successful kidnappings where the children are never hurt. Cousin Marvin, the one who keeps Abby imprisoned at his cabin in the woods, is friendly, carves dolls and tries to entertain her whenever she is a ďgood girl.Ē You can almost expect Abby to call him Uncle Marvin. Cheryl, (Courtney Love) the wife of Joe, is responsible for finding Dr. Will Jennings, and making sure he makes the deposit. She has several problems of her own, often distracting her from the job. Will tries to crack her with his psychology. ďDoes your husband even love you? Do you ever consider why he puts you through this?" This is where the soap opera essence comes into play. There is a particular reason why they chose the Jennings to be their latest victims. They have met before, but I wonít give away that part.

The suspense lies in how the three kidnappers work their error-proof plan. Marvin must receive a call from both Joe and Cheryl every 30 minutes to make sure that they are still unharmed and not captured. If 30 minutes passes without two phone calls, he is instructed to kill Abby. But after learning Marvinís character, you really canít expect him to ever finish her off, but Iíll leave that question open for you to find out.

Abbyís severe asthma is one of few plot twists that doesnít make Trapped more interesting, but allows Karen too see her daughter for a brief moment to deliver her medication. That is one indication that the writers were looking for substance, in order to make this generally basic plot concept stretched out to make a feature length movie. The parents try to turn the tables, and take over the situation. That leads to more complications, and more threats from the kidnappers. If Karen and Will just followed their simple instructions, there would be no movie. But they're too stubborn, and often cross the line.

There is a lot of action, but at the expense of cheap Hollywood thrills. Letís just say Willís airplane serves more of a purpose than just transportation. As for his paralyzing medication, that also comes into play as Will conveniently has a supply of it whenever he needs it. Joe tries to get intimate with Karen, forcing her to be subject to his sexual desires while home waiting for the time to elapse. All of these little mini-plots make Trapped interesting, in an addition to good acting. I was amazed at how good the young Dakota Fanning performed. Iím usually not convinced by most young actors, but she has more potential than The Sixth Senseís Haley Joel Osment. As the one who gets kidnapped, she had to be the most convincing, and was successful.

Trapped concludes in a big finish, despite how far-fetched the ending played out. For example, the cops never show up to disturb the characters at work. Big explosions, car crashes and lots of foot chasing will satisfy your decision to sit through, for a movie of this genre, a rather tame thriller.

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