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Movies: Panic Room

[Movies: Panic Room] In my defense, let me state upfront that I was lobbying for Monster's Ball. But one member of our party stated her unwavering oppositions to all things Halle Berry, so we had to find something else. Finally we settled on Panic Room as a movie which, while not necessarily something we were all eager to see, was at least something that none of us refused to see.

Now, this was a switch for me. Up until that day I had been refusing to see Panic Room because it had run afoul of my Movie Trailer Ubiquity Rule ("If the total amount of time I have spent involuntarily watching a movie's trailers equals or exceeds the running time said film, it shall be removed from my Must See In Theaters list.") But then I had the misfortune to stumble across the Panic Room page at Rotten Tomatoes where I discovered two things that changed my mind. First, the film was directed by David Fincher, he of Fight Club and Seven. Secondly, it was actually getting favorable reviews: the consensus seemed to be that the excellent direction more than made up a mediocre script.

So we saw it. And the critics were right on the first count: the direction was great. But this script was so mediocre that Hitchcock himself would have had a tough time regaining the lost ground. As I'm certain you've gleaned from the trailers (now showing every 14 minutes on a tv station near you), the premise of the movie is that Jodie Foster moves into a new New York Apartment / Mansion, and discovers that it contains a "Panic Room": a sanctuary with reinforced steel walls, it's own phone line and a dozen security cameras that can be entered and sealed in case of a "home invasion". And so, of course, on the first night in her new abode three men break into her home, so she scurries into the panic Room, along with her daughter. The problem -- and the crux of the film -- the three burglars know what they want, and they know where it's located: inside the room that Foster now occupies.

What follows is like a Road Runner cartoon, with the criminals in the role of Wild E. Coyote: they cook up a scheme to capture Foster, and then she (meep meep!) foils them. Annnnnnd repeat. This could have been exciting, but the pace of the film is entirely too languid, and the paper-thin premise is spread out over two-hours. Worse, the plot is rife logical inconsistencies. Ordinarily I don't mind plot holes in a thriller -- hey, I can willingly suspect my disbelief with the best of them -- but Panic Room moves so slowly that it doesn't give you anything better to do than sit in your chair and think "hey wait a minute: why didn't she just use her cell phone in the first place?"

It's not terrible and plenty of folks will enjoy it -- the cinematograhy is nice, and the audience is treated to a plenitude of overhead shots of Jodi Foster in a tight tank-top -- but when it comes to "thrillers" I prefer a bit more sass in my sasperilla, thank you. You know, the kind of movies that actually thrill.

Posted on April 01, 2002 to Movies