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Egoyan sets bleakness level to 'unwatchable'

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Canadian director Atom Egoyan is no stranger to tragedies involving children (Devil's Knot, The Sweet Hereafter) or acts of obsessive, creepy voyeurism (Family Viewing, The Adjuster).

He combines those elements in this spare, chronologically fractured drama bearing an unfortunate resemblance -- in both title and themes -- to last year's Denis Villeneuve-directed drama Prisoners.

As in that film, a girl's kidnapping has devastating consequences for her parents. Matthew and Tina (Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos of TV's The Killing) are a proud, attentive couple devoted to their figure-skating wunderkind Cassandra (Peyton Kennedy). But one afternoon, while Matthew goes into a restaurant for a minute to pick up a pie, Cass is snatched from the back of his truck. For the family, a portal to hell is opened.

Egoyan, who co-scripted with David Fraser, proceeds to become unstuck in time. He bounces between the event and eight years later, delineating the now-shattered relationship of Matthew and Tina, and the sparring give-and-take of a pair of romantically involved cops, Nicole and Jeff (Rosario Dawson and Scott Speedman), who are doggedly working the case.

In the film's most delirious touch, we are also privy to the machinations of the pedophile mastermind Mika (Kevin Durand) who is still zealously holding the now-teenage Cass (Alexia Fast) in his architecturally elaborate hideaway, not because she interests him sexually, but because she can be used to ensnare other children in Mika's web.

As in many a Canfilm drama, the subject matter is so relentlessly unpleasant as to raise the question: Who is actually going to want to see this movie?

Egoyan doesn't do himself any favours with a style as austere and wintry as the Niagara Falls setting, piling bleak on bleak.

If it shares the same theme as Prisoners -- an act of evil makes captives of everyone it touches -- it also shares a similar flaw with a villain of such cartoony malevolence as to defy belief.

Pity. It's anchored by good, solid performances by Reynolds and Enos. But the movie is thrown out of whack by its wackjob antagonist. Durand, whether trilling an aria from The Magic Flute or gloating over a secret video feed of Tina at work in a hotel, seems to be an invader from another movie, a Silence of the Lambs knockoff perhaps, in which Speedman's desperate cop might as well be subbing for Steven Seagal.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 5, 2014 D5

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