Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Directed by Robert Lieberman
Starring Erika Christensen, Jesse Metcalfe, Bill Moseley
Distributed by E1 Entertainment
The latest flick to bolt from the Twisted Pictures stables, The Tortured, carries an extreme amount of familiarity with Daniel Grou’s superior French Canadian offering 7 Days. When the son of young couple, Elise and Craig (Christensen and Metcalfe, respectively), is abducted and murdered by a sexual deviant by the name of John Kozlowski (Moseley), the grieving parents are enraged when he is granted a lesser sentence in return for information on where his remaining victims are buried.
Struggling to come to terms with the injustice, the couple decide that the best way to alleviate their pain is to inflict as much as possible upon the monster responsible. As part of their plan, practicing doctor Craig drugs the drivers of the armoured vehicle, and when this leads to a smash-tastic crash, Kozlowski’s battered and bloodied frame is thrown from the wreckage – offering the perfect opportunity to whisk him away.
Off in a secluded cabin, Craig and Elise strap the paedophile down and get to work delivering all kinds of torture; meanwhile, the police are closing in…
The Tortured is quite an apt name for this one, as that’s exactly what you’ll be if you choose to sit through it. The beginning is promising, including an incredibly creepy and unsettling scene involving the discovery of the dead child; but as soon as the couple have their target on the table, it just goes from one flimsy schlock scene to another. It’ll obviously be referred to as torture porn, and it is, but the only stimulation that what plays out during the second act provides is the realisation of just how stale this particular sub-genre has become.
Leads Christensen and Metcalfe are just far too glamorous to be convincing in their roles as distraught parents – Metcalfe especially seems to be trying but is so hideously miscast it’s unforgivable. Only Christensen manages to occasionally break through, offering some real emotion, grit and determination. Moseley is restricted to about five minutes of actual talking screen time, during which he does pretty much nothing but don some makeup and shout crazy lines like…well…Bill Moseley. The script offers absolutely zero of interest for him to do.
Problems with the plot are all over the place – for example in the beginning the dialogue seems to indicate that Craig is a stay-at-home dad; 15 minutes later and he’s a professional doctor with hospital residency. When it seems that Kozlowski may have taken a knock on the head during the crash and can’t remember what he’s being tortured for, it looks as though the film is going to take a very interesting turn: Do you continue to mete vengeance upon a person who has absolutely no recollection or understanding of the wrong they have committed? Unfortunately, that particular notion is snuffed out in the same scene in which it appears. The ending, similarly, introduces a twist that does nothing but make you frown in despair. It offers no satisfaction, no consequence for the characters themselves and seemingly reinforces the notion that indiscriminate murder is okay as long as it makes you feel better. To say that a bitter taste remains in the mouth after this one is the understatement of the year.
Visually, The Tortured plays it safe and remains rather flat and uninteresting throughout, with the stand-out moment being the aforementioned vehicle crash. Gore effects range from really quite toe-curling to just about passable, but the violence begins to lose most if not all effect due to sheer abundance of it. Of course, if you’ve seen 7 Days, you’ll instantly note that The Tortured is almost a carbon copy apart from the fact that only the father is involved in the torturing in Grou’s film. I’m unsure if they’re both based on the same novel, but the similarities are such that The Tortured could justifiably be referred to as the generic Hollywood remake (despite also being a Canadian production…go figure!) – a brain-dead attempt to translate a legitimately challenging piece of cinema for lowest-common-denominator entertainment. The fact that even the violence in 7 Days is delivered with an infinitely heavier gut punch despite The Tortured reveling in it demonstrates just how big a failure it really is. Grou’s film has much, much more to offer than the misguided, empty shell that Lieberman drops in your lap with this one. Avoid.
Having played last month at the Film4 FrightFest, The Tortured will soon be finding its way onto DVD in the UK courtesy of Entertainment One. Special features there include a very short collection of rather poor cast and crew interviews (all responding to the single question “How Far Would You Go?”) alongside a 10-minute behind-the-scenes featurette which reveals that the majority of people involved seemed to believe they were making something much more heavy and conscientious than it turned out. Worth a quick watch, but nothing momentous.
1 1/2 out of 5
1 1/2 out of 5
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