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Fantasia Review: In a Valley of Violence
Jamie Taylor wakes from a car accident to find herself locked in a cell in some warehouse. Her ribs are severely bruised, and her diabetic son, Michael, is missing. Her captor is a dude named Alek, who tells Jamie that her husband, Kevin, is an international heroin smuggler, who has been using Jamie as cover all along. Kevin, it seems, recently stole $40 million from the crime syndicate that both he and Alek work for, and Alek is here to get it back. That's where Jamie comes in. If Jamie doesn't start talking, Alek will kill her and her son. Did I mention that she has only a few hours before the head of the syndicate shows up to collect the money?
Based on the summary, you've probably seen a few films in your time that echo that same setup. Be it CELLULAR, CAPTIVITY, PANIC ROOM or even SAW, it boils down to someone being locked up by someone else, who is threatening the someone locked up over something that the someone else wants. Plug in your variables, and away we go. But unlike the films mentioned, THE BETRAYED doesn't have the luxury of a big budget or anything truly unique to help separate itself from the others, leaving director Amanda Gusack to rely on other means to make the film work, and in some ways, it does.
Right off the bat, I give credit to the actors for pulling off some worthwhile moments. Aussie beaut Melissa George delivers a top-notch performance of the dazed, battered woman who's not only coming to grips with the situation, but the fact that she's been lied to her whole marriage. George does a great balancing act of conveying rage over having her child taken from her, and the desperation to see him safe quite nicely. Despite him being the token bad guy, Oded Fehr warms up to you at the same time his character grows more sympathetic to Jamie. Alice Krige does her thing, which is always great to see.
Being limited by budget, Gusack is forced to have the majority of the film shot in a few rooms, leaving her camera work and the score by Deborah Lurie to keep things interesting. The score does the job of helping to create tension and mood, whereas the camera work, pedestrian as it might seem in some spots, is tweaked that much to make things interesting. Obviously, you can only do so much in such a small area, but it's better than just putting the camera in one corner for the entire film.
In light of the acting and camera work, the film is far from being a blockbuster. Even at 96 minutes, the film drags once the tension starts to waver. How does it do that? As Alek grows to sympathize with Jamie and her predicament, the perception of him being the big bad antagonist goes by the wayside, taking the tension with it. Adding to the slowdown is the setting itself, which grows boring after seeing the same thing for so long.
Really, the biggest complaint about this film is the fact that it doesn't do enough to stand out from the other thrillers that came before it. The effort is there, but the budgetry restraints and script keep the effort from going further. Rescuing things are the performances, which really keep the film from being a total bore. At the end of the day, the acting is really the thing to see in the film. Everything else you've seen before, figuratively and literally.
Video: Being a screener, it's not fair to grade the transfer, especially when Fox insists on plastering that 'Property of' crap on it.
Audio: Screener. Possibly not final.
The film won't unseat PANIC ROOM as my thriller of choice for a mother and her diabetic child against armed thugs, nor does it outdo CELLULAR for the race-against-time type of film, but it's an okay trip in its own right. While the story is lacking in terms of any real stand-outs and the characters have all been seen before, it's worth watching to see Melissa George strut her stuff and Alice Krige, well, be Alice Krige. Try it for a weekend rental, just don't expect to be wowed over the thing.