Alan Rickman, in a stunningly unexpected bit of casting, plays an arrogant, womanizing SOB of a chemistry professor who has just been awarded the Nobel Prize. While he and wife Mary Steenburgen jet off to Sweden, their son (Bryan Greenberg) is kidnapped. Before long, the parents receive are sent a severed thumb as proof of the kidnapper’s serious intent. But nothing is quite what it seems.
What we have here is a blackly humoured cross between farce, caper and revenge story. The name-studded cast also includes Bill Pullman as the detective assigned to investigate the kidnapping, Elize Dushku as Greenberg’s love interest, and Danny DeVito as a gardener recovering from an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Ernie Hudson and Ted Danson also show up in small roles. DeVito doesn’t have much to do in the film, but then, in the end, neither does just about anybody else. Rickman, though top-billed, isn’t asked to do more than his patented bastard shtick, which he can do in his sleep. There’s a creative heist scene, and plenty of twists, but these latter have a merely academic interest. There is no emotional attachment to anyone in the film, which means that the OTT flash and dazzle of the editing becomes pure surface distraction. Then there’s the soundtrack, partly the work of electronica deity Paul Oakenfold. Too often, it has no relation to the action on screen, and is so loud that, fine as it is in and of itself, it becomes irritating. End result: a slick but empty, only fitfully engaging effort.
The picture is extremely sharp, and is blessed with excellent blacks, fine flesh tones, zero grain and edge enhancement, and rich colours. However, the contrast is a bit on the murky side, making a number of scenes darker than they need to be. Otherwise, the picture is very good. The aspect ratio is the original 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen.
I already mentioned the problem with the score, but let me reiterate just how exaggerated its volume is in the mix. It drowns everything else out, reducing the movie to a background accompaniment to the music. On the positive side, the speaker separation does wonderful things for the score, so one can really admire its production values, even if that’s not what one should actually be paying attention to. The dialogue remains clear throughout, however.
Commentary Track: More sound problems here. The participants on the commentary track are director/co-writer Randall Miller, co-writer/co-producer Jody Savin, DP Mike Ozier, Bryan Greenberg, and Eliza Dushku. The sheer number of speakers means that it is next to impossible to keep track of who is saying what. But the big issue is that the recording quality of the track is the shoddiest I have ever heard. Pops, buzz, static, and other forms of distortion are the order of the day, as if everyone were speaking with their lips brushing against dollar store microphones. Well nigh unlistenable. And the optional commentary track that accompanies the deleted scenes is even worse.
Deleted Scenes: Three of them.
Making-of Featurette: (13:00) Standard-issue promo piece, of minimal interest.
Theatrical Trailer and Redband Trailer.
A disappointing film, given its interesting premise. It stops just short of being boring, when it should have been much better than that.