While I went into Prisoners with the intention of comparing it to Taken, I left feeling like I just watched an extra-long episode of Law & Order: SVU. And even more troubling is the fact that I left feeling like I watch waayyy too much Law & Order: SVU. Sure I always knew I watched a lot of it (thanks, but no thanks to USA marathons every single weekend), but I didn’t know that I had reached the “too much” level of watching it. However within the first thirty minutes of the film, I’d figured out the entire mystery. Give or take one last minute twist that I didn’t see coming. With that said, it is a good movie. But probably only for people who miss seeing Stabler slam suspects into walls on Law & Order: SVU. Yep, that’s right. There’s a whole lotta testosterone-drive temper tantrums going down in this movie.
So let’s talk about why it felt like a very special SVU episode as well as why Hugh Jackman’s face confused a suburban-dad-beard with a lone-hunter-who-lives-off-the-land beard. But first let me give you the super obvious warning that there will be spoilers coming up. Lots and lots of spoilers. So if you do not want to know what happens in this movie, you do not want to keep reading. And if you do keep reading, I don’t want to hear any complaints.
With all that said, let’s get into this review!
The movie opens in a dark and cold and rainy Pennsylvania town. The weather literally could not be more ominous. If you ever wake up on a day this cold and grey and bleak and you’re starring in a movie, stay in bed. Otherwise your character will die or someone close to your character will die or you will personally cause someone to die. Unfortunately for Hugh Jackman, no one ever told him this. Someone also didn’t tell him to tone down the foreshadowing. The movie kicks off him praying before killing a deer. Why? Because sometimes creatures have to be sacrificed for other creatures to survive. Also religion versus morals and other stuff that film critics will discuss in depth to prove that they didn’t waste their liberal arts degree on a blogging career. Also his name in the movie is Keller Dover, which is such heavy-handed name for his character that I won’t be using it.
Hugh returns from hunting with his son and takes his family to another family’s house for what I think is Thanksgiving dinner. Terrence Howard is the other family’s dad. But he’s a horrible father who doesn’t love his daughter as much Hugh (AKA, he won’t torture someone nearly to death to find her) and he’s a horrible person in real life. So let’s not spend any more time talking about him. However we will give a shout out to his wife who’s played by the always wonderful Viola Davis. She gets tossed a few emotional scenes in the movie which is nice.
Back to Hugh. His kids and he-who-we-shan’t-name’s kids take a walk before dinner and they see an RV parked outside a house that does not belong there. As an avid SVU watcher I knew right away that a kidnapper was in that RV. RV owners in dramatic movies are never good people. That’s a rule. In the same way that an RV is ripe for hijinks when it shows up in a comedy. So naturally the two girls get kidnapped shortly after this RV sighting and Hugh Jackman loses his shit right away. Like one second he has his shit together and the next second he’s lost it. “WHERE IS MY SHIT????” he yells at his wife, “I TOLD YOU NOT TO TOUCH IT!” To which his wife, played by Maria Bello, whispers, “sorry Hugh, I can’t answer you because I only have three lines in this movie and this is not on them.”
Why does Hugh misplace his shit? Because he’s a parent who loves his daughter and will do ANYTHING to get her back. And by anything, I mean kidnapping a suspect (Paul Dano) who the police let free and torturing him like he’s auditioning for a role in Hostel 4. I actually had to cover my eyes at some parts. Like where do writers even come up with some of these ideas? HOW DOES A NON-SOCIOPATH THINK OF TORTURING PEOPLE IN THESE HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE WAYS? I sometimes feel like I have a deranged mind and my mind never even gets close to coming up with this stuff. He’s like Stabler on steroids. And by that I mean, he uses slightly sketchy logic to justify beating up someone who might known information about the victims. And just like Stabler, he never apologizes for being wrong. He’s like “ehh, he seemed like the perp, what can you do?”
On one hand, Hugh’s totally in the right. The police — as police always are in movies — are incompetent. (How they don’t have a PR team in Hollywood yet, I will never know.) When I say that I put clues together right away, I mean it. Yet the police are missing them left and right. It gets to the point that Jake Gyllenhaal could’ve received an envelope marked “clue” and he would’ve tossed it out — in a dramatic fashion, of course. For god’s sake, they let Suspect #1 (still Paul Dano) out of their custody and he’s wearing those thick-rimmed glasses that ONLY pedophiles wear in movies. In this day and age of typecasting, that’s practically a confession. “Hello, I’ll have those 4-inch thick glasses in the case and I’ll be paying for them with this warrant that’s out for my arrest.”
Also, while we’re on the topic of Jake and his incompetence, who told him to develop a facial tic? It’s distracting to say the least. And incredibly pointless to say the most. While I enjoy his face in most movies, it was not doing it for me in this one. Also, movie makers, stop giving people unnecessary back stories. There’s a throwaway line about Jake living in a foster home for years that I guess was supposed to reveal that he’d gone through some shit? I don’t know. I just don’t think every single character in a movie needs to have an elaborate off-screen past that never goes anywhere. But that’s just me, the person who thinks parts like that could’ve gotten cut out so that he movie wasn’t two AND a half hours long.
Then again I’m the same person who’s so in-tune with child predators that I can smell them from a mile off. So maybe don’t trust me on that length. Maybe it was totally necessary for the plot that it be 153 minutes. Maybe if I hadn’t watched every episode of SVU 14 times, I would’ve needed a little bit longer to figure the whole thing out. Other people who’ve reviewed this movie are calling it the best thriller of the year. But I guess to each his own two-and-half-hour thrill, right?