This movie answers the burning question of “what happens when a mamma-bear’s cubs are threatened by some bad guys?” Answer? Don’t ever mess with mamma-bear, ’cause mamma-bear will mess you up! Gabrielle Union stars as that mamma-bear in a rather silly home invasion film that invades your logic as well.
Married mom (What? NOT divorced or single? Really??) Shaun Russell (Union) has a long weekend ahead of her. Her unbelievably wealthy and estranged father had just been killed and she’s gotta drive all the up to his beautifully sprawling and isolated ranch estate in Wisconsin to get it ready to sell. Along for the ride are her two bratty kids: teenage daughter, Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and techno-savvy 10-year-old Glover (Seth Carr), who would rather be somewhere else. But no sooner than discovering that grand-dad’s place is a veritable fortress with a surveillance/panic room, shielded windows, and a super-duper alarm system, then trouble kicks in the door.
Four bad guys come a’callin’, looking for pops’ hidden safe and a ton of cash he supposedly stashed away. They are: dangerously calm leader Eddie (Billy Burke), sensitive crook Sam (Levi Meaden), safe-cracker Peter (Mark Furze) and psycho-nuts Duncan (Richard Cabral). After Shaun manages to escape into the woods, she’s got a bigger problem. With no cellphone and her kids being help captive inside the house by the others, she has a choice: either run to get help or stay put and try and rescue her kids by outsmarting the baddies.
No, she’s not a special-op’s former Navy Seal, she’s not a ninja assassin, and she’s not a secret agent/MacGyver who can whip-up a bomb using a toothpick and some bubblegum. She’s just a mom with a taste for getting her kids back alive, even if it means giving the bad guys exactly what they want. But after Eddie threatens to harm her kids, Shaun decides to go on the attack. In a film riddled with numerous plot holes and hokey story contrivances, this film chugs along to its inevitable and silly conclusion.
Ryan Engle is no stranger to cookie-cutter screenplays, as he also wrote the paint-by-the-number films Non-Stop and its doppelganger, The Commuter. The characters (or should I say caricatures?) are all two-dimensional, have little or generic personalities, and spout dialogue that is dull, flat, and predictable. Nothing makes any sense as they never do anything sensible that a normal human would do, nor do they survive the hard-core beatings that are inflicted upon them. Seriously, if you run over a guy, that’s gonna HURT, dammit!!
And what the hell is director James McTeigue doing here in the first place? He’s done the impressive V for Vendetta and Ninja Assassin, so why is he doing this schlock? I’ll give him points for trying to glean as much action and tension as possible from this mundane script, even with Union giving it her best shot as an action star. She deserves better. And extra bonus points for whomever cast Alexus, as she looks as if she would be Union’s daughter.
Panic Room (2002)
What a mom goes through these days to protect their kids from evil guys breaking into their homes! Just ask Jodie Foster as Meg Altman in this harrowing thriller by Se7en director David Fincher. And you’ll even get a chance to see an eleven year-old pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart and country-western singer Dwight Yoakam.
Divorced-mom Meg and her sassy diabetic young daughter Sarah (Stewart) are house shopping in NYC and come across a steal: a beautifully spacious three-story brownstone home with a special panic room built in for, y’know, those RARE occasions. But not a day goes by after moving in that Meg & Sarah have one of those RARE days! Three bad guys decide to burgle the home, knowing for a fact that $3 million lies inside the panic room’s hidden vault. But, surprise! They weren’t counting on people living there… yet!
Leader and calm “no-guns, no violence” Burnham (Forrest Whitaker) doesn’t like the situation, while jumpy and impatient Junior (Jared Leto) just wants that money whatever the cost and brings along psychopathic gun-man, Raoul (Yoakam) as his muscle. After Meg wakes up and quickly gets herself and Sarah safely into the panic room, that’s where the fun begins. With the ladies inside and the bad guys on the outside, it’s a game to see who can hold out the longest. Meg tries to keep her daughter from succumbing to her diabetic drop in sugar levels, while the bad guys are trying everything to get them out, but without any luck.
An attempt to get a phone call out manages to get Meg’s ex-husband (Patrick Bauchau) to come over, but that goes badly. Pretty soon, Sarah’s gotta have insulin or it’s bye-bye and Meg makes an attempt to leave the room and get it, but with disastrous results: Burnham and Raoul get inside the panic room with Sarah and then lock themselves in with Meg freaking out on the outside. Will Sarah ever get her insulin? Will the bad guys ever find their money? And what about the police knocking on the front door?
Screenwriter David Koepp has written some damn fine scripts (Jurassic Park, Death Becomes Her, Sam Raimi’s Spider-man) and this one is no exception. Balancing finger-nail biting suspense with thrilling action and some diabolical dark humor thrown in, this movie doesn’t stop in its effort to keep you entertained. Match this with the electric direction of Fincher, whose body of work is just awesome (The Game, Fight Club, Gone Girl to name a few), and you have a terrific movie all-around.
Jodie Foster, who got pregnant during this film, is outstanding as the mother, protecting her child at all costs and boy, can she ever swing a mean sledgehammer! Stewart got her film career the boost it needed with this movie (and you can see why), and Whitaker and Leto have a great time sparring with each other as criminal adversaries. But the real gem here is Yoakam, mostly hidden under a pull-over woolen mask. Vicious, calculating, and acting up a storm, who’da thunk this singer-turned-actor could prove to be such a gifted performer (villain) on the screen.