News Column

A Return to Quality Fare

September 26, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 26--"PRISONERS" (R)

3 OUT OF 4 STARS

HUGH JACKMAN, JAKE GYLLENHAAL, VIOLA DAVIS, TERRENCE HOWARD, MELISSA LEO

Because it's got a great cast, suspense and layers of mystery and because I am thrilled to finally see something serious this tale of kidnapping and personal limits gets three stars.

Things kick off quickly. Two families who live in a typical suburban neighborhood have their daughters go missing.

When it becomes clear they've been abducted, suspicions lead to a mentally challenged young man in a camper near where the girls disappeared.

From this point, the film follows two tracks.

One involves the investigation that a police detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) doggedly moves forward, despite an early lack of leads and twists that don't seem to add up.

The other follows the actions of a missing girl's father (Hugh Jackman), a survivalist sort who goes ballistic when police release the suspect.

He abducts the boy and begins to torture him, something the father of the other missing girl helps with until his conscience stops him.

Both of the film's tracks the investigation and the thread about how far someone will go when pushed by the loss of a loved one add to the mix.

But the film would have had more power, and moved along more surely, had director Denis Villeneuve picked one one track and focused on it.

Following two threads causes the plot to waffle and the movie to grind a bit. It takes two and a half hours to bring the story to a conclusion.

Although Jackman gets kudos for making his character more scary than sympathetic, it's Gyllenhaal who drives the film forward and holds it together.

A good supporting cast makes this the first serious arrival of the fall, a time when comic book movies give way to stories with a little more weight.

It's a welcome change of seasons.

Rated R for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout. 153 min. [MC, RA, RF]

"BATTLE OF THE YEAR" (PG-13)

1.5 OUT OF 4 STARS

JOSH HOLLOWAY, LAZ ALONSO, JOSH PECK, CHRIS BROWN

What's more ridiculous:

A) Pretending break-dancing competitions are on par with NFL games or

B) Casting white-bread actor Josh Holloway as the coach of a hip-hop dance team?

The answer, of course, is all of the above.

This silly throwback acknowledges its own irrelevance when a main character notes that public interest in break dancing and "B-boys" is on the decline.

Ya think?

Things get even sillier when Holloway a dejected former basketball coach and dancer is hired to to whip a dance crew into shape.

What follows is a hackneyed story of teammates bonding and achieving through break dancing.

Rated PG-13 for language and some rude behavior. 109 min. [MC, RA, RF]

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(c)2013 The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.)

Visit The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.) at www.fredericksburg.com/flshome

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