| This astounding low-budget indie film is bolstered by great acting, a cleverly conceived script and sure-handed directing. It marks the full feature debut from writer-director J Blakeson and revolves around a simple kidnapping premise.
The movie opens sans title with two men, Vic (Eddie Marsan, the driving instructor from “Happy-Go-Lucky” and memorable roles in “Vera Drake” and “Me and Orson Welles”) and Danny (Martin Compston from “The Damned United”), silently and meticulously going through their preparations for the perfect crime. A few minutes later they are dragging a young woman kicking and screaming to a room they have prepared in a deserted apartment building. An aerial shot shows them stripping her naked and chaining her to a bed with a pillowcase over her head and a gag in her mouth. They photograph her and send an e-mail to her wealthy father demanding ransom money.
The terrified young lady is Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton, who played agent Strawberry Fields in “Quantum of Solace” and also appeared in “Clash of the Titans” and “Prince of Persia”).
The famous line originating from a poem by Robert Burns and later contained in John Steinbeck’s novella – “the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry” – comes home to roost as this seemingly straightforward crime thriller turns into a series of manipulative mind games as the relationships between these three people change and evolve over the 100-minute running time.
This shining example of independent filmmaking never feels claustrophobic despite essentially being shot in only one location consisting of three rooms. The movie keeps you riveted to your seat and continually guessing at every turn. The story unfolds with dark humor and scant dialogue.
Each character has a different frame of reference. Sex plays an important role in the interpersonal dynamics at work here. There is a constant state of flux in the shifting alliances.
The acting is top drawer in this three-handed drama. Arterton takes the extremely daring title role while often appearing nude. She is forced to endure a lack of privacy and demeaning humiliations during her captivity. She demonstrates emotions ranging from vulnerable and miserable to crafty, desperate and brave. Her future appears unlimited as she ascends the ladder of Hollywood stardom.
Marsan sports a full beard and mustache and plays an angry villain with an uncontrollable temper. He also shows a sensitive side. His acting gigs continue to operate under the radar.
Compston appears to be far more subservient and constantly having second thoughts about the soundness of this get-rich-quick scheme. He is charming and attractive in a boyish sort of way. He turns out to be an enigmatic chameleon.
This fantastic film delivers an unexpected payoff as it wrestles with the idiom that “crime does not pay.” It debuted at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. It has been getting rave reviews on the festival circuit and in the United Kingdom. You need to see it before your ears are burning with all the plot spoilers that could ruin the viewing experience.
The initial platform release rollout in the United States of only a dozen screens luckily includes an exclusive opening at the Leawood in Overland Park.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"