MPI // 2009 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Carlton (Retired) // June 24th, 2010
Secrets from the past don't stay buried.
Stolen has the right ingredients to make for a good mystery; quality actors and a solid premise, but the screenplay lacks the spark to keep a drama like this satisfying.
Detective Tom Atkins can't get over the loss of his son who mysteriously disappeared over a decade ago. Convinced that his son is still alive, he refuses to move on with his life in a healthy manner, causing much stress in his own life as well as his wife's. Construction workers unearth a box containing a young boy who has been buried for fifty years and although the boy is not Tom's son, his haunting mystery is brought to the forefront once again. His obsession with finding the killer of both boys is the only thing important in his life.
Much of the lure of Stolen comes from the cast, whose impressive resumes will bring an audience to this independent film. Fans of Mad Men will want to see how Jon Hamm performs outside of his Don Draper-esque shackles. Fans of Firefly will swarm to see what Morena Baccarin now has to offer her legion of followers after a respectable remake of V. Josh Lucas (A Beautiful Mind, Glory Road) has enough hits under his belt to warrant sections of People Weekly throughout the year. Unfortunately, Stolen won't be ranked with any of these actors' better work, not because any of the participants didn't deliver, but the screenplay as a whole fell short. While Stolen isn't all that bad of a film, the best I can rate it is ehh...decent.
I understand what the film was trying to do and the premise still sounds intriguing to me as I type it. Tom Atkins (Jon Hamm) is a man who cannot get over the loss of his son and moreover, can't forgive himself for that loss. His self torture for this terrible event in his life is tearing his family up. Will he solve this mystery or will he be forced to move on? That is the question and it wasn't as riveting as I had hoped. Stolen lacks much in terms of story movement as it plods along between scenes in 1958 to the present as similarities in both cases are made known. We are introduced a few new characters along the way, but the tension that is needed to keep a murder mystery interesting is missing, focusing for too long on filler.
Probably half of Stolen is spent in the past tracing the story of Matthew Wakefield (Josh Lucas), the father of a boy who was kidnapped and whose remains were uncovered fifty years later. Part of the reason for these flashbacks is to show us the coincidences surrounding the two cases, but also to introduce us to Diploma (James Van Der Beek), a friend of Matthew's whom the present day detective believes may somehow be a link between the mysteries. I wish the film were as interesting as I'm making it sound, but it was too slow to really be considered a "character study." I think had the resolution of the story been more climactic, my impression of the entire film might be different. In the end, it was just the end.
One of the better aspects of Stolen is the editing, and the director creatively bridged the two eras using a series of uniquely executed dissolves. One example is seeing the camera tilt up in to the sky in the present to follow an airplane, but when the camera tilts back down we are taken back to 1958. There are several instances within the film where the dissolves were thoroughly impressive and around the third or fourth, I was more interested in seeing what would shown next, instead of seeing how the story might pan out.
Like the film, the extras on the DVD are nothing to get excited about. We get a trailer and a twelve minute making-of featurette with a few interviews from cast members. The picture and sound on the disc were quite good, with crisp images and a 5.1 Dolby track. For those who enjoy the film more than I did, you should be satisfied with the presentation.
Stolen was one of the more bland films I've seen in awhile. I didn't necessarily dislike it, but it wasn't memorable in the least, especially considering the talented cast and dreary subject matter. In the end, Stolen was just sort of there.
Guilty by one vote.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R