Sony // 2008 // 107 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 19th, 2008
Sometimes the only way to stop a criminal is to become one.
The title is crappy and the straight-to-DVD stigma is always an obstacle, but this is a decent psychological thriller.
Cole Hauser (Paparazzi) is FBI Agent Kevin Cole, a bona-fide hard-ass and the son of a powerful bureau chief (James Cromwell). He accepts a ridiculously dangerous assignment to infiltrate a crime syndicate headed up by the mysterious "Ziggy," a guy who's so scary he makes grown men wet themselves.
Cole's first assignment is to torture a syndicate accountant named Archie Green (Laurence Fishburne), who's apparently stolen millions of dollars from Ziggy. So for seven days, Cole goes at Greene, unloading all manner of physical torture. It gets so bad, he starts having horrifying nightmares and his relationship with his hot girlfriend unravels. But when Cole puts together a risky plan to bring Ziggy to the surface, he'll risk everything he holds dear and yada yada yada there's awesome shooting.
Color me pleasantly surprised. What looked to be another unimpressive, easily forgettable trip into straight-to-Blockbuster hell, became an enjoyable, gritty, sometimes shocking slab of suspense.
It all starts with Cole Hauser, an actor that I really like, but who we've had to endure in a slew of bad movies. I've always thought he had the chops to be a pretty memorable badass, if given the right material, and he's finally been handed something meaty to work with. While the drama coaches will opt to focus on the duality of the character -- how he's this undercover sadist by day and the wannabe nice guy by night -- I was more compelled by his cop persona. Yeah, all that torturing keeps him up at night and I guess his girlfriend is sick of it, but the "undercover guy slowly losing his grip on reality" is a half-baked concept in Tortured, and you've probably seen it a hundred times already. As a field agent, determined to bring down Ziggy, now that's a slice of cool. Kevin Cole is determined to open up a can of whoopass on Ziggy and his syndicate, and is bold enough to formulate a ridiculous plan at the end to bring him to the surface. The dude just takes charge and, despite the obvious attempt at nuance (oh look at him torture that guy!), he comes across as a committed doer of good. Maybe you'll have questions of morality and "when is it going too far?" swirling in your head. If so, cool. You're more sensitive than I am. But I was mainly digging the cop versus robber side of it all.
Hauser is supported by strong performances from James Cromwell, who never disappoints as a crusty law enforcement official with a shifty background; Laurence Fishburne, as the recipient of torture; and smaller work by Jon Cryer and Kevin Pollak. The lovely Emmanuelle Chriqui occupies the thankless girlfriend role, which is unfortunately in the middle of the least engaging storyline.
Here's the rub though, and it's a big one. As cool as the story is and as robust as the performances are, one thing can not be overlooked: you will know how this movie ends almost immediately. I won't go any further into spoiler territory. It won't matter anyway, because I guarantee you that you will have figured out the punch line, minutes into the runtime.
The video transfer looks great (1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen) and is supplemented by two active 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks (English and Thai). The making-of featurette is standard issue, but the cast shows up to talk shop.
It's predictable and that will take some sting out of things, but Tortured isn't half-bad.
Not Guilty. Not the pinkies!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R