Anchor Bay // 2009 // 86 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 17th, 2009
Everyone has a breaking point. Tonight, she reaches hers.
Kim Basinger (Cellular) opens up a can of whoop-ass on Lukas Haas.
Della (Basinger) is a frustrated housewife living in an emotionally abusive marriage, and she's about ready to have a nervous breakdown. She'll get the chance to blow off some steam when she's running for her life from a gang of psychos in the middle of the forest.
When Della witnesses Chucky (Haas) commit a heinous murder, she immediately becomes a hunted woman. With Chucky and his nutjob pals on her tail, she opts to drive into an unfinished housing development for some reason. One thing leads to another and she ends up in the woods, pursued by bloodthirsty punks with only a toolbox and its contents to use against her predators.
I had high hopes for While She Was Out and that's just from the disc and the synopsis alone. The film was new to me, but the plot sounds like something that would be right up my alley. I was thinking: "Kim Basinger, running around a housing development and there are these bad dudes and she's got this toolbox and she's going to put together some awesome lethal contraptions of death and they're going to meet their ends in creative gruesome ways."
That sort of happens, but the result, frankly, isn't nearly as cool as I had hoped. Della does indeed go apedirt and exacts some bloody vengeance, but the gimmick just never seemed to max out its potential. When Della dips into her toolbox, it's not to build a bodacious Rube Goldberg device that will end up in a dude getting flattened by a log with saw blades embedded in them. Nope, it's a wrench or a tire iron or a screwdriver and she pretty much beats the guy to death. Not that there's anything wrong with that in your thriller movie but -- why the toolbox? Might as well just grab a 2x4 or a tree branch and go to town.
My biggest complaint is the pacing. The meat of the cat-and-mouse plot doesn't get rolling until 50 minutes in, leaving about 20 minutes of thriller. The setup is hugely effective in building the tension, but the pay-off just doesn't deliver. Della's pursuers tend to be incredibly stupid and make decisions that directly lead to their bludgeoning; basically, they talk a good game but when the chips are down, homeboys go down like punks.
Then there's the ending, which is...bizarre. It works, though. Della's final stand follows nicely with the theme of kick-ass feminism, yet I was slightly let down from what I thought would have been a truly shocking twist. Nope, it just ends up being odd. But I won't forget it so it's got that going for it.
Basinger and Haas are great. She's a scrapper from the beginning and far from a wilting wallflower so when she does decide to get her smackdown on, it's believable. Haas is essentially a bastard, but you hate him so he wins.
The release looks great in its 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, bringing out the woodsy flavor of Vancouver with verve. The 5.1 surround is loud and active. Extras: a laid-back commentary from writer/director Susan Montford and producer Don Murphy, a standard-issue making-of featurettes and TV spots.
While She Was Out is no failure. It just didn't quite achieve noteworthy status.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* TV Spots