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Thriller gets Trapped in own formula, but still delivers chills

The thriller that doesnít scare rarely makes it to the movieplex. Good, bad or just plain stupid, all ìthrillersî seem to have a certain fear factor in common.
While Trapped reaches each degree of thriller at one point or another, it still delivers the chills when necessary.
The premise is a little different at first glance; itís called the ìperfect ransom.î Hereís how it works: con-artist husband-wife-cousin team hold rich husbands, wives and their children hostage for 24 hours in exchange for $250,000. Nobody calls the cops or tries to harm the bad-guy captors, and everyone is reunited the next day.
As the head-kidnapper, Joe (Kevin Bacon), smugly says in the prologue, ìI love bringing families together.î (By the way, thatís the part when the movie falls into the stupid category.)
But it is soon discovered that with the Jennings family, this time itís personal. (Hereís where itís just bad.)
Joe holds Karen Jennings (Charlize Theron) hostage while wife Cheryl (Courtney Love) corners Dr. Will Jennings (Stuart Townsend) at a conference in another city. Joe and Cheryl tell their respective victims that their daughter Abby (Dakota Fanning) will not be harmed by cousin Marvin (Pruitt Taylor Vince) as long as all goes according to the ìperfectî plan ñ the one that has worked four times before.
The use of cell phones runs rampant in Trapped, which uses the technology as the main method of communication among the kidnappers. The phone rings every half-hour on the buzzer ñ or the kid gets it. This allows for much of the filmís tension, especially when Joe takes his time and thereby almost gives Marvin ñ and the audience, at times ñ a heart attack.
The tension mounts well, thanks to tight cinematography on the actorsí faces, as well as a standout performance by 8-year-old Fanning. (This is the part thatís good.) Fanningís eyes and the conviction she brings to her asthmatic character allow every scene between her and Vince to be believable. The movie wonít work if the audience doesnít care about the child victim. But when Abby is in trouble and in a threatening predicament, the escapism aspect works as well as any epic.
Trapped doesnít bring anything new to the world of movies and certainly not to the thriller genre. All actors involved are fine in what they have to work with ñ supposed-victim roles, which include those given to Bacon, Love and Vince (but thatís another story).
While it seems odd for such a high-profile cast to arrive at the box office with little-to-no fanfare, there is no one feature that begs for more recognition. Itís a formula movie that works on one level and simply rides on cruise control most of the way through.
When that happens, itís tough to expect more than a little bit of stupid to be tossed in with the good and the bad.

Contact Will Albritton at