Trapped (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

What do you expect when a studio spends $30 million on a film featuring those two omnipresent stars, Kevin Bacon and Charlize Theron. Might be pretty decent, in a Cider House Rules kind of way?

I know some facts which would change your expectations:

1. The studio releases it right after summer is over, in one of the weakest periods of the year.

2. There are no pre-screenings for critics.

Got the picture now? Columbia obviously knew that Trapped bit the big one, so they kept it away from critics and test audiences to avoid bad advance publicity, then they tried to muscle it through 2200 theaters in a time period when it had no competition. The strategy didn't work. The film started poorly and word of mouth made it worse. Various reports filtered back of audiences yelling "this sucks" and "bullshit" at the screen, and laughing throughout the showings. That laughter was even worse news than the kibitzing, because Trapped is an ultra-serious thriller about some baddies kidnapping a cute five year old and raping her mom. It also involves torture by anesthesia, attempted castration, and sadistic violence against women. Not exactly the kind of light-hearted material to inspire a Leno monologue.

At the very end of the film, in what must be one of the most ludicrous twists ever written in a thriller, the little girl's dad (a doctor, yes, but also a top pilot) drops a plane down on a highway in front of the kidnapper's car, thus placing the child into far more danger than anything the kidnappers ever did. Of course, since we're talking about the child of the good guys, the car spins around, and gets flipped about the highway like a pinball, but the little girl is fine. Fine and loveable.


Courtney Love shows her breasts discreetly in a too-bubbly bubble bath, and kinda-sorta falls out of her blouse a couple of times, but nothing obvious.

Hundreds of other cars and trucks are also involved in the massive accident created by the plane, but nobody seems to be hurt.

I think my favorite part of the script was that the kidnappers claim to have pulled off four previous identical kidnappings without a hitch. This is not just a bromide to sooth the parents of the kidnapped girl. We are to believe that the four previous kidnappings really happened, because the evildoers discuss it among themselves as well. OK, it's hard to believe that none of the previous parents ever talked to the police, as the baddies claim, but this premise seems almost believable for a while - until the screenwriter sort of changes his mind in mid-picture and introduces a revenge motive - the baddies supposedly chose to kidnap the daughter of this particular anesthesiologist because the doc "killed" their own daughter.

DVD info from Amazon

Available Dec 24th.

So let me see if I understand this. Despite their powerful need for vengeance, they decided to put the guy who killed their daughter number five on the list, kidnapping the kids of four completely innocent guys first. Sure. That's how I would have done it. The others were good practice, right?

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: one and a half stars. 1/5, Apollo 64/100, 1.5/4, 3/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. Despite the poor reviews, lame box office and  negative buzz, IMDb voters score it a respectable 6.0/10
  • with their dollars: a mammoth failure. It opened on 2200 screens, grossed only $3 million its first weekend. Bad word of mouth drove it down to a million and a half the next weekend, and virtual non-existence thereafter. The budget was a moderately costly $30 million.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, it's about a Z. No, I guess it is a D+, to be fair. It isn't good, and even genre addicts will find it the sequence of events hard to accept, but it does have some interesting scenes, good production values, a big action set piece at the end, and big name stars.

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