Melissa Leo is a hard-working café waitress in Tennessee who regularly sends what little extra cash she has to her adult son who, for reasons never explained, is a drug-addict in Johannesburg. A drug lord (Joey Dedio) kidnaps said son, and demands a ransom that, for Leo, is next to impossible. Nonetheless, a mother’s love knows no obstacles, so she scrapes together the money to fly to South Africa. Once there, she connects with Tina (Lisa-Marie Schneider), her son’s prostitute girlfriend, and is made to run the gauntlet by Dedio, who shows very little inclination to let his hostage go, no matter what demand is met.
This is an odd fish of a film, being a rather incongruous mix of gender-flipped Taken and gritty realism. Leo is called upon to do the impossible: be the grief-stricken mother and then terrified mother for the first part of the film, but transform by the end to an avenger whose strategy and vocabulary are worthy of Hannibal Lecter. All of her weepy moments are expertly performed, but so frequent they become tiresome. In other words, we have a first-rate actor being sandbagged by a silly script. And silly the whole thing very much is. Despite all kinds of gestures towards the Harsh Realities of Life, it is, in the end, no more a product of the real world than Transformers. What it is, though, is slick, quick and entertaining.
The same kind of odd mix present in the structure of the film is reflected in its look. My sense is that it’s going for something along the lines of City of God, which captured the brutal squalor of its setting while dazzling the viewer with exciting cinematography and editing. In the present case, we have rather drab, sun-bleached colours working with just the right amount of gritty grain, mixed with flashy camera work and editing. The effect is rather more divided than cohesive, but it is interesting to look at, and the transfer is a good one.
The 5.1 surround does a good job for the most part, but isn’t exceptional. There are plenty of street scenes that offer wonderful possibilities for a truly immersive experience, but the surround elements are almost exclusively the province of the score and music effects. These are all very good (even if the score is so similar to the one for The Bourne Identity that it borders on plagiarism) and there is enough music that all the same there is a fairly good sense of being enveloped by sound. The dialogue is clear, though there is one scene in a car where there is some serious distortion.
Nothing but some trailers, including Lullaby‘s.
Though there is a bit of a sense of a movie thinking it is better and smarter than it actually is, its flaws are forgivable over an hour and a half. A decent evening’s rental.