Lionsgate // 2005 // 105 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // October 8th, 2010
Predators can be fascinating to watch. They are brutal, driven and focused. Put two of them together and it can be a real thrill. It can also be very hard to watch.
Yipes stripes. I heard this movie had some powerhouse acting along with some brutal content, and was curious to see it. Even knowing enough to be on my guard, I was still unnerved when the credits rolled. Credit the cast and crew who put this together; Hard Candy bites back.
The story is simple. Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson, Little Children), a man in his 30s, is meeting 14 year-old Hayley (Ellen Page, Inception) at a local coffee shop. The two have been chatting online for a while now and decided to connect in person. When Hayley suggests they go back to Jeff's place, he agrees and doesn't stop her when she begins making screwdrivers. But Hayley has her own agenda. Awakening from a drugged stupor, Jeff finds himself tied up and staring into the eyes of a very angry girl. You see, Hayley believes he's a pedophile and a murderer, and she's going to exact a very harsh revenge.
Filmed with style and executed with skill, Hard Candy goes for the throat. It's in-your-face brutality (never showing the bloodiest bits) deals with disturbing attitudes, forcing you to look long and hard at two unique people. More importantly, it continually turns the tables on its audience. We understand why Hayley is disgusted with Jeff at the outset, but as the story progresses, we begin to wonder if Jeff is as guilty as Hayley thinks. Is she reliable, or an unstable girl you'd never trust? Jeff is a sleaze, but a molesting killer? It becomes harder and harder to believe. This balancing act keeps us teetering until the final minutes, and even then we're left unsatisfied. Just what was the story here?
Hard Candy is the kind of movie that will appeal to people who enjoy getting teased by a film and having questions left unanswered. It's a good one to discuss, since there may be more than one right answer. I got a definite David Lynch vibe from the style of the film, but there is a bit of it in the story too.
Hayley reminds me of a manifestation of rage and vengeance. She doesn't really have a character. She's more of a chameleon, and all her words may be lies. Ellen Page does a great job with the role and really makes it work. Patrick Wilson is just as good, keeping things hidden, but cracked just enough to make us wonder if this man is capable of real horror.
Did I enjoy the film? I wouldn't say that. I appreciated it, but also found it a bit lacking. The film climaxes in the middle, around a very disturbing sequence, after which it feels a bit aimless. This particular scene doesn't kill the film, but certainly slows its momentum. The best comparison I can make is to Japanese director Takashi Miike's Audition, but that film worked better on all fronts. For as many times as I've seen Audition, I don't feel a need to revisit Hard Candy.
Lionsgate gives us a typical Blu-ray catalogue release. The 2.35:1 widescreen transfer looks solid in 1080p high def, but for story with only two locations and limited stylistic quality, it's not the kind of thing that demands an upgrade. Plus, the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is a bit odd. There are moments where the characters say things under their breath, forcing me to crank up the volume to catch it, and lower it quickly when the screaming began. (I try to keep tortured screams to a acceptable volume for my neighbors). The same bonus features are ported over from the previous DVD release, but they are good ones: two commentaries, a documentary, deleted scenes, and a featurette. The only thing that didn't make the cut was a DVD-ROM production notebook.
If you've never seen Hard Candy and want to see great performances by Wilson and Page, I suggest a rental. If you like what you see and plan on watching it again, Blu-ray is the way to go.
I refuse to tick off Hayley and her surgical equipment. Not Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted/Extended Scenes