This serviceable little thriller suffers even more than most from the dreaded “none of this would have happened if our hero had even made one logical choice” syndrome. It more than makes up for it with its brisk pace (less than 90 minutes long) and the satisfyingly clever use of some of today’s most universal annoyances: people who blare loud rap music from their cars, people who buy huge SUVs to sit in the pick-up line at suburban schools, cell phone signal failures; obnoxiously unhelpful salespeople; cell phone battery failures; arrogant people in ostentatious sportscars; and cell phones that ring at the wrong time. Plus, it has William H. Macy.
Kim Basinger plays Jessica, a loving mother and high school science teacher who is abruptly kidnapped from her luxurious Brentwood mansion after dropping her son at the school bus. We know these guys mean business because they shoot the housekeeper.
They leave her in an empty attic, smashing the phone with a sledgehammer. But she is a science teacher, so she McGuyvers the bits together and clicks the wires until it randomly dials some number which fortunately happens to be a cell phone that is right in the neighborhood.
The guy who answers is Ryan (played by unmemorable Chris Evans). We know he’s a slacker because he’s just been told off by his girlfriend for being irresponsible and superficial.
Ryan realizes Jessica is telling the truth and after a half-hearted attempt to get some help from the police, decides he will rescue her. His behavior for the first 2/3 of the movie is so purely idiotic that there is no room left over to feel much tension or indeed any emotion other than irritation at the complete failure of logic or intelligence by just about every character except for Mrs. Wizard up there in the attic.
Once it gets going, though, there are some clever twists and pleasurable thrills, mostly provided by the always-watchable William H. Macy as a cop named Mooney who is just about to retire to run a day spa. The result is a silly summer thriller somehow languishing as a fall release.
Parents should know that the movie has strong language for a PG-13, references to drug dealers, and a lot of tension, peril, and violence. A mother and her child are in peril and characters are killed.
Families who see this movie should talk about what Jessica’s husband should have done that could have prevented much of what happened and why Moon did not give up.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Phone Booth, with a very similar theme and by the same author. Other movies with related themes include the classic Sorry, Wrong Number with Barbara Stanwyk and The Slender Thread with Sidney Poitier and Anne Bancroft. Families will also enjoy seeing Macy as a cop in the sweet and funny Happy Texas (some mature material).