Even though this crime thriller is based on a true story, it never feels remotely believable. The problem is that writer-director Walker tries far too hard to force the real events into a standard movie structure, which leaves gaping plot holes everywhere we look. Still, it's a solidly made film, with a snappy pace, strong performances and beefy direction that holds our attention.
It's set in 1983 Anchorage, Alaska, where the cops struggle to believe the story told to them by 17-year-old prostitute Cindy (Hudgens): she claims to have been kidnapped, tortured and raped, barely escaping with her life, and she identifies upstanding citizen Robert (Cusack) as her would-be killer. With the police refusing to follow up on her statement, State Trooper Jack (Cage) looks into it and discovers similarities in the cases of several other missing girls. And even though his out-of-hours investigation strains his marriage to Allie (Mitchell), he is doggedly determined to find the proof that will put Robert behind bars.
Right at the beginning we have a nagging question that's never answered: why do the police discount the victim's account, especially as it's accompanied by physical evidence? And the screenplay brushes past other big issues along the way, making us think that this might be the most inept police squad in the world. Although we never doubt for a second that Jack will crack the case, even though the script continually throws in random movie cliches from the characters' pasts in an attempt to ramp up the emotional stakes. It also randomly places Cindy in the middle of an under-developed war between two pimps (Jackson and Henke).
But the real problem is that the characters never ring true. Hudgens tries to make Cindy a little girl lost, but never looks like much more than a glamorous star slumming it. Cusack and Mitchell seem to have completely different personalities in every scene. And Cage has a relentless good-guy tenacity that only exists in rural movie cops. Still, the Alaskan settings are spectacular, and the film has an urgent tone that keeps us watching even if we know exactly where it's heading.
Run time: 105 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 11th July 2013
Box Office Worldwide: $5.5M
Distributed by: The Film Arcade
Production compaines: Picture Perfect Corporation, Grindstone Entertainment Group, Emmett/Furla Films, Cheetah Vision, Court Five, Envision Entertainment, Valentina Films, K5 International, Paradox Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 59%
Fresh: 30 Rotten: 21
IMDB: 6.4 / 10
Director: Scott Walker
Screenwriter: Scott Walker
Starring: Nicolas Cage as Jack Halcombe, Vanessa Hudgens as Cindy Paulson, John Cusack as Robert Hansen, Radha Mitchell as Allie Halcombe, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe as Chelle Ringell, Katherine LaNasa as Fran Hansen, Dean Norris as Sgt. Lyle Haugsven, 50 Cent as Pimp Clate Johnson, Gia Mantegna as Debbie Peters, Kevin Dunn as Lt. Bob Jent, Kurt Fuller as D.A. Pat Clives, Matt Gerald as Ed Stauber, Brad William Henke as Carl Galenski, Michael McGrady as Vice Det. John Gentile, Ryan O'Nan as Gregg Baker