on September 20, 2002 by Paul Clinton
The raw intensity of the kidnapping of an eight-year-old girl gives "Trapped" an unsettling yet gripping mood. Heightening the potency of the film is a string of real-life child abductions, including the much-publicized conviction of David Westerfield in the kidnapping and murder of seven-year-old Danielle van Dam in a San Diego suburb. Fearing the worst, Columbia has backed off all promotional efforts for the film, which is a shame, because it is a solid movie. In its few ads for the thriller, the studio has sanitized the TV trailers to tone down the kidnapping theme--though part of what makes "Trapped" so frightening is that it hews so close to real-life events.

As the leader of the kidnap gang, Kevin Bacon's marvelously creepy Joe snatches little Abby Jennings ("I Am Sam's" Dakota Fanning) from her wealthy parents, Will (Stuart Townsend) and Karen (Charlize Theron, heartbreaking in several scenes). Joe has, with the help of wife Cheryl (Courtney Love) and colleague Marvin (Pruitt Taylor Vince), pulled off four earlier kidnappings from wealthy families and collected sizable bounties. So he doesn't have much compunction about grabbing the girl in broad daylight.

After Marvin has abducted Abby, Joe strolls into the house and, in a startling scene, calmly explains to Karen, in her well-appointed kitchen, just what she must do to have her girl returned safely to her. Karen must deal with this alone as, earlier that day, Will and his single-engine plane flew out of town to a medical convention.

The game, Joe tells Karen, is all about control. Screenwriter Greg Iles, who adapted his best-seller "24 Hours," might not have much aptitude for ringing lines of dialogue, but he carries this theme throughout the film: Joe regulates the asthma medication for Abby, interrupts brief phone calls between Karen and Will and forces Karen to perform sexually for him. The real drama and action come when Karen wrests that control away from the overconfident criminals by doing what no other victim has dared: She fights back.

While his movies don't always hold together, director Luis Mandoki ("Angel Eyes," "When a Man Loves a Woman") always has a strong grasp on his characters' psychological states.

"Trapped" won't score points for political correctness, but it may cause parents a few sleepless hours--a sign of its effectiveness. Starring Charlize Theron, Kevin Bacon and Courtney Love. Directed by Luis Mandoki. Written by Greg Iles. Produced by Carsten Lorenz and Mimi Polk Gitlin. A Columbia release. Thriller. Rated R for violence, language and sexual content. Running time: 104 minutes

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