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What’s it About?

A single mom and her child are carjacked by a bank robber.

“Carjacked”

Directed by John Bonito

By Vic

Man, never has a movie gone off the rails quicker and harder than “Carjacked.”  Well, that may not be true. Many movies probably have, but in this case I felt that the film opened pretty strongly. “Carjacked”  had maintained some momentum because of  two robust leads in Maria Bello and Stephen Dorff. It begins securely with an interesting back story involving Maria Bello’s destitute character of Lorraine Burton. Director John Benito ( The Marine and the upcoming Paradise City) along with newbie writers Michael and Sherry Compton promptly establish that Lorraine is a woman in trouble psychologically.

She has a social disorder and has a problem with resolving situations and makes poor choices. The choices have dire consequences that not only affects her but it is taking a toll on her young son, Chad, played by the young Connor Hill ( Contraband ). When the film begins, Lorraine is in group therapy and she is feeling vulnerable and prostrate.

She has issues with her past, her husband and has to raise her son by herself, while being a low income adult. The ever watchable and always cool Joanna Cassidy ( Blade Runner and Ghosts of Mars ) plays Betty who manages to single-handedly steal the entire therapy scene from everyone else. She tells Lorraine that she is “Too Nice” and that she needs to, for the most part, grow a backbone, take control, and get over the demise of her marriage, to a court-martialed loser who flaked out on her and their son. As the film progresses we notice just how right Betty was. Lorraine is always nervous, obsequious, ill mannered and comes across pretty weak and desperate.

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Maria Bello is actually very competent here and she emotes thoroughly and believably during the set up. After her therapy she heads to her local Gas Mart to fuel up her dilapidated vehicle and director Benito moves the story along establishing yet again that Lorraine isn’t a very responsible adult. But in her defense, she is downtrodden and frustrated. She goes in and takes a phone call while shopping for food for her and her son. It is her ex-husband and after scaring the attendant and a couple of customers with her voluminous outburst she gets back in her car to pawn off some boxed pizza on her kid who has been displaying more responsibility than she has.

When asked if they had enough for “Roy” we are introduced to the 3rd party in this kidnapping fare. Actor Stephen Dorff (Blade) who I’ve always kinda liked plays Roy, a bank robbber who is in need of a way to get very far away from the bank he just heisted. Red flag number one goes up: What was he thinking getting into a piece of shit rust-bucket that looks like it is about to fall apart if you slam the doors too hard. Huh? Is he really that desperate?

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I actually liked Dorff for much of the film and I felt that even with him  delivering some really questionable  dialog like: “Lorraine, you do me right, and I’ll send you and your boy off with a smile and a fond farewell. You do me wrong, then you and little Chad here are fucked.” – He was quite enjoyable in a very under-stated and furious way. He was attentive, wary, wide-eyed and his body language matched Bello’s tense performance. Is it about an hour in after all of the driving and the back and forth exchanges about abandonment, bad parenting, betrayal, faux therapy, banal small talk and slight tension in the story that things get chronically conventional and the movie just can’t recover.

\Unfortunately, Benito’s film becomes very…well, ordinary and quite routine. It’s a shame really because you don’t really see it coming it just suddenly becomes a  piece of hackneyed cinema. Benito knows how to shoot a thriller though, I will give him that. His camera is always well placed inside and out of the car and he gets great coverage of his action and stunts.

When emoting, the actors are given their fair share of the frame and try so very hard to keep this sinking ship afloat. Dorff is even like-able and just when we think the dude actually has a bit of humanity in him because he does care for Chad while despising Lorraine for “being a wreck”  –  Benito changes gears and not in a good way. “Carjacked” becomes a ho-hum action TV movie of the week and the strange logic, motivations and interplay becomes confusing as hell.

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The only one that fares well here is young actor Hill who when is asked to take off in a school bus to safety displays real emotion at having to leave his mother behind. Lorraine, too ( I think because the script falters here ) acts like a total bitch when she doesn’t need to be. While at a diner she acts combative, rude and abrupt to those who she just asked for help. All she needed to do was tell everyone that she and her son were just victims of a kidnapping and she would have been ok but nooooo she acts like a pushy asshole and we start to dislike her even more. She then totally botches a phone call with the authorities to steal a jeep and chase a guy who she was trying to get away from. In her defense though, she was trying to help another woman and her kid from Roy.

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Don’t get me started on the ending. After this failed road movie / kidnapping flick has gone through the motions the end is like a watching the climax of a Spike TV Movie. It’s lame, loud, unbelievable and uses a really lame plot device that involves a poorly handled shotgun and some reward money. The film even ends like a Lifetime Movie of the Week too. Not that there is anything wrong with that except that this is supposed to be a kidnapping thriller! Hello? It ends in a courtroom where we get the whole “The Husband is to blame for everything” crap. Argh. Dorff is cool to watch through to the end but his lines and the stupid decisions he makes belittles his performance and aborts his intensity up to that point.

“Carjacked” is sub-par, dumb, illogical and completely wastes the talents of 2 actors that have been working hard at making movies for a long time. I kinda think they deserved much better than this lazy mess. The film is one big “Meh.” Watch it for the slick and bad ass Joanna Cassidy who appeared way back in the film when it felt like a totally different movie than it really turns out to be.

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