Judge Clark Douglas can't remember if he has amnesia.
All he knows is that he must fight for his life.
"Hey! I'm over here!"
Facts of the Case
The Man (Adrien Brody, The Darjeeling Limited) can't remember who he is or how he wound up in a wrecked car in the middle of the woods. He doesn't know why he has a gun or why the other two passengers in the car are dead. He doesn't know where the large pile of cash in the car came from. He doesn't know how far he is from civilization. Saddled with a serious leg injury and a suspicion that he may be some kind of violent thug on the run, The Man makes a valiant attempt to fight for his life and put the puzzle pieces he's been handed together.
On paper, the notion of watching a single person trapped in a confined space for 90 minutes sounds like a dull time at the movies. In a way, recent thrillers like Buried and 127 Hours feel like directors daring themselves to overcome self-imposed limitations. It's easy to see the appeal of the idea: if you fail, at least you tried something ambitious. If you succeed, you've pulled off a considerable feat. Now this burgeoning genre has been joined by Michael Greenspan's Wrecked, which finally makes the basic idea feel as dull as it sounds.
Buried, 127 Hours, and Wrecked are all essentially one-man acting shows, and it could easily be argued that Wrecked has the finest thespian of the bunch in Mr. Adrien Brody. Though I don't know that I'd go so far as this film's Blu-ray case (which dubs Brody, "one of the most acclaimed and talented actors of our time"), he certainly has the chops to carry a film and the screen presence to keep us involved for 90 minutes. His performance is actually quite good, as he valiantly emotes his way through a series of unpleasant moments and successfully conveys his swirling thought processes via agitated body language.
Unfortunately, the screenplay has thrown Brody into the ocean without a life preserver. The actual story (written by Christopher Dodd) is a dull, generic tale that struggles to find ways to justify the feature-length running time. Each new development will generally be accompanied by a long, aimless stretch as the filmmakers attempt to find ways to kill time. Even more disappointingly, the wait isn't worthwhile: the big reveal during the film's closing moments is more likely to inspire shrugs than gasps of disbelief.
One of the self-imposed limitations the filmmakers seem incapable of overcoming is Brody's minimal dialogue. He doesn't say anything for the first fifteen minutes or so of the film, and only tosses out semi-incoherent snippets from that point onward (usually talking to a dog which may or may not be a figment of his imagination). Brody's grunts, grimaces and looks of dismay are all perfectly effective, but too often it feels as if the man is acting in a void. Greenspan never really makes us care about who The Man is or whether he survives, nor does he excel at bringing any suspense to the proceedings (even a handful of mountain lion attacks feel rather ho-hum).
Though the actual space we're working in is considerably more open than that of Buried or 127 Hours (the first half-hour takes place within the confines of a car, but the spreads to the larger wooded area surrounding the vehicle later), Wrecked feels much too cramped by the challenges it has given itself. Lacking the Hitchcockian inventiveness of Buried and the colorful directorial flourishes (some might say gimmickry) of 127 Hours, Wrecked just kind of sits there waiting for the end credits to arrive. It's a bold experiment that falls flat on its face; an idea which must have seemed cool at the time of conception, but couldn't sustain the transition to the big screen.
Wrecked looks good in hi-def, boasting an attractive 1080p/2.40:1 transfer. The film's strongest virtue is arguably James Liston's handsome photography, as the cinematographer finds a variety of intriguing angles and shoots the lackluster story in some visually involving ways. Still, it's a shame that the story is so thin that the audience are left with little to do save for observing Brody's face and Liston's camera work. Blacks are deep and inky while flesh tones are warm and natural. The level of detail is strong throughout, with facial detail standing out in particular. The film's naturalistic palette is appealing, as the film certainly doesn't adopt the desaturated horror film design its cover suggests. Audio is decent too, with an understated score highlighting the proceedings. Some minimal sound design comes into play on occasion (rustling leaves, etc.), but this is largely a spare, quiet track (accentuated by the minimal dialogue). Extras include two uninformative featurettes ("The Making of Wrecked" and "The Woman's Perspective") and a trailer.
Props to Adrien Brody for a valiant performance, but it's stuck in a film unworthy of his efforts.
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