The Entitled Blu-ray ReviewSeptember 13, 2011
The Entitled isn't great, but it wants to be, and that has to count for something.
It's a simple kidnap-and-ransom thriller, almost paint-by-numbers material, and yet it weaves an intricate story in which the threads overlap but are never lost in the design; it's a movie with surprises that are never truly out of the blue.
As much as it's a movie about the perfectly-planned kidnapping, it's a celebration of an almost-perfectly-planned drama/thriller.
The film stars Kevin Zegers as Paul, a young college student with big dreams that are repeatedly crushed. Despite a number of interviews that have gone extremely well, he just can't nail that perfect job he wants. Compound this with the fact that is sick mother is facing imminent foreclosure and you have the recipe for an angry, bitter young man who reeks of desperation.
And in that desperation, he turns to a couple of stereotypical non-conformist, mentally unbalanced classmates (Devin Bostick and Tatiana Maslaney) to help him execute a plot that involves kidnapping the socialite children of three wealthy business tycoons and ransoming them for a million bucks apiece.
Everything about the previous two paragraphs sounds formulaic and standard, but the film strives to rise above that. On top of the been-there, done-that kidnapping plot, writer William Morrissey has sewed together a film that encompasses enough story material to make up three separate movies. And despite such a rich tapestry, the movie never becomes bogged down with plot.
There are moments when the exposition goes a bit too far into overdrive, and, to be frank, the ending can be spotted from a mile away. However, unlike most bold attempts at making the mundane thrilling, Morrissey and director Aaron Woodley are up to the challenge, crafting a movie that, despite a deliberate pace, never feels like it's moving slowly.
In fact, the pace is terrific, allowing just enough time to savor that which is important about each individual strand in one story before moving back to the other.
While Paul and his semi-demented cohorts keep the kidnapped kids at bay, their well-to-do fathers (Ray Liotta, Stephen McHattie, and Victor Garber) are starring in their own separate film, debating about the best way to deal about the horrific ordeal that's befallen them and their families.
It's a balancing act that a lesser films (some of them theatrical – impressive, considering The Entitled is a direct-to-video release) would struggle with until the very end, but it's one that this film handles beautifully.
The performances throughout the film are great, but it's Zegers who steals the show, despite dropping out of the picture for the bulk of the final act. Zegers displays a wide range, and even though the intricate workings of his plan become more and more obvious as the film goes on, you never quite know where he's going to take the character next.
Bostick and Maslaney play their smaller roles to perfection as well. While it's clear from their respective introductions that their wiring isn't exactly sound upstairs, they never delve so deep into the stereotypical nature of their characters that they become caricatures.
And Liotta, McHattie, and Garber handle their duties as the helpless fathers with all the intensity you would expect from such roles without ever going over-the-top.
There are a handful of complaints about the film to be made, however.
As noted earlier, Morrissey's script starts to practically telegraph the next plot development two scenes before it happens, lessening the impact of the payoffs and doing a disservice to the actors trying to bring it all to life.
For the most part, the performances of the cast is enough to overcome the more blatantly-obvious plot points, but there are moments that could have gone off with a bang but instead fizzle out.
And in spite of Zegers's fantastic performance, Paul's transition from down-on-his luck, lovable loser to criminal mastermind a little too quick. There are hints that all the elements of his master plan have been in the works for some time prior to the events of the film, but they aren't quite enough to justify the sharp right turn that the character takes.
Finally, to be perfectly honest, the movie's ending is a little insulting. As much time as was spent laying out every detail, so much so that developments can be predicted well beforehand, I was disappointed to find that the movie apparently thinks I have a ridiculously-short attention span.
The slings and arrows against this picture are minor, at worst, though. Generally, The Entitled works, even if it falls just a bit shy of its ambitions.
Anchor Bay brings The Entitled to Blu-ray with an AVC 1080p encoding that provides a beautiful picture that falls prey to distortion from time-to-time. Blacks tend to be rendered a bit amorphous at times, causing a distraction during some of the more intense scenes.
That's a fairly minor blip on the radar, though. For the most part, the color saturation is handled beautifully, and the secluded, wooded area in which the film takes place comes to life with sharp but never distracting greens and browns.
As for the sound, the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD mix is serviceable more often than that, but the balance seems to be off a bit, particularly early in the film. The music, which does its job at creating an air of tension, tends to render some dialogue unintelligible in certain sections. Having said that, the mix's treatment of ambient sounds – particularly the cooing of birds in the nighttime scenes – is handled extremely well.
Beyond the Feature
Behind the Scenes (11 minutes) – This is a rarity for a direct-to-video release (at least in my experience) inasmuch as it actually deals quite with writer Morrissey and director Woodley discussing both the broader themes of the picture as well as the origin of how the production came together.
Alternate Ending (6 minutes) – Providing enough of the final, used ending to give the audience a sense of context, this feature provides an ending that's not nearly as insulting as what made the final cut. Frankly, this should have been the final ending.
Rounding out the bonus features are trailers for a pair of Anchor Bay Blu-rays, namely Daydream Nation and Frozen.
I was surprised to like The Entitled as much as I did. I can't necessarily say it's worth having on your shelf, but it's definitely worth adding to your Netflix queue or grabbing from the Red Box.
- Jason Jarman
Shop for The Entitled on Blu-ray for a discounted price at Amazon.com (September 6, 2011 release date).
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