Strapped to a rusty medical chair, Elisha Cuthbert's performance in Roland Joffe's Captivity doesn't work as either performance piece or dramatic bling. Cuthbert gets the Versace knocked out of her while being mentally tortured like Eli Roth's 115th dream, and that's not even the stuff that will bring the cringes out. Amongst the visual ipecac, there's an acid bath featuring a young model, a shake made of eyeballs and intestines, and a blown-apart puppy that is just slightly reminiscent of the mongrel that Paris Hilton stuffs in her purse.
Captivity has no special place in the newfound lineage of post-modern torture flicks: It still hates women (although the heroine factor is anted-up) and the methods of dispatch are still rather lacking in passion (although they're a bit more innovative here). Usually, a film like this would pass under the radar, pick up a few bucks, and eventually spawn a straight-to-DVD sequel starring run-offs from Laguna Beach. This squeamish squirm has a few differences in its DNA, however.
For one, there was that boycotted ad campaign that everyone agreed was just a bit too torturous for their peepers. Then there are the people behind it: Its director, Roland Joffe, is responsible for both The Mission and The Killing Fields and its screenwriter, Larry Cohen, was once the Grand Poobah of B-Horror schlockathons (It's Alive!, the stupendous God Told Me To). With genes like these, one would hope for a horror-thriller with more chops than what's ended up on the screen. Ultimately, however, the film lacks any sense of fun or danger, two things that tend to inform the best of the horror genre, if not straight-up avant-gardism.
Cuthbert, playing a model, gets kidnapped and held in a labyrinthine holding cell while being psychologically put on the rack. Its a few hours into the proceedings when she realizes that there is someone stuck in an adjacent cell: a beaten-up lothario (Daniel Gillies) who immediately puts it upon himself to save and bed the model-in-peril. The twisted genius behind the torment theatrics (Pruitt Taylor Vince) only smirks and chuckles as he swigs chardonnay and watches the fun on his totally-bitchin' camera setup.
Give it to Joffe and Cohen: This well-trotted mess has a tighter coil and more streamlined vision than its relatives. That being said, the end result of Captivity still boils down to visual shocks and very few jolts of truthful suspense. In the final 30 minutes, the film gets back-loaded with absurd twists that take away any sense of control that may have been apparent in the film's first half. Truth be told, the greatest strength the film has is its curtailed running time: Joffe forces himself to cut off a good excess of fat that both the Hostel films had in spades. Yet, there's still this sense of wasted time both in the beginning and end. Cuthbert, an actress who has only shown real talent on Fox's 24, flounders in the material, shot for maximum affability. Sadly, the torment-horror genre still hasn't found its alpha dog.
How could she possibly escape now?