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P2 A Garage-Sale Thriller

P2 (Summit Entertainment, 2007)
Directed by Franck Khalfoun
Written by Khalfoun, Alexandre Aja, and Gregory Levasseur from a story by Aja and Levasseur

P2 was one of those late December films, our traditional holiday thriller, that I, along with the Projectionist, missed amongst the swarm of great films that got dumped on us near the end of 2007. Most of America apparently did as well since it scrapped up near to nothing at the box office.  And while it didn’t get high praises from the few critics who saw it, P2 was given some semi-ringing endorsements by the likes of Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin of all people, so I figured it was worth checking out once it hit DVD this past week.

As the DVD cover description claims loudly, it’s the “Night Before Christmas” (A few of us actually call this Christmas Eve, in case you’re confused), and Angela (Rachel Nichols) is hurrying to get out of the office and off to her sister’s house for the holiday celebration. She soon realizes her car won’t start; the title refers to the garage level Angela has parked her car on. This is where she meets the overnight security guard, Thomas (Wes Bentley), who tries to help her out with a battery charger to no avail. After a failed attempt at getting out of the building to catch a cab, Angela winds back up in the garage where the lights suddenly go out and she is attacked from behind.

A while later, she wakes up chained to a table where dinner has been prepared for her, and she is wearing a rather revealing dress that she did not have on before the blackout. In walks Thomas, talking as if they are on a casual date and she is there by her own choosing, and thus begins the battle of wills between the captor and the captive for the next hour or so.

I enjoy what I like to call the “Non-Traditional Christmas Movie.” Films like the original Black Christmas, Die Hard, and The Ref fall into this category nicely. I was hoping P2 would join this grouping; alas in the end, it doesn’t even come close. What the hell was Roger Ebert thinking?

The main problem with the film, and it’s a big deciding factor on whether or not you will enjoy it, is Wes Bentley’s performance. For me, it didn’t work at all. He basically approaches this as if his character from American Beauty finally stepped over the edge and instead of admiring things of beauty decided to capture them and chain them up while he talked them to death.

He’s obviously studied many generic psycho killer performances from the past because he makes his eyes really big at times while combating that with a stark innocence to throw us off of his true intentions. However, since we’ve already seen that he has chained up our victim and chained her to the table, I don’t think anyone is curious about his motives.

Bentley’s actions make a scene late in the movie even more hilarious and ridiculous when you stop to think about it. Nichols gets away from Bentley at one point and escapes back to his office while he wanders the garage looking for her. She finds a tape that depicts Bentley fondling her while she’s knocked out. Nichols gets this crazy look on her face like she’s had enough of this shit and decides she needs to take some action; apparently the hours of leading up to this where he throws her around, sicks his dog on her, and kills one of her co-workers didn’t bother her so much, but dammit, he touched her breasts, so he has to pay.

P2 also makes it more than obvious that this supposed “Torture Porn” sub-genre has worn out its welcome, if it was ever invited in the first place. This should have been a pretty straightforward by-the-numbers thriller with a couple of good performances that would have kept us invested in the process. Instead, they stick in a few ridiculously over the top gory sequences that made me laugh out loud more than cringe because they felt so out of place.

Alexandre Aja, the director of High Tension and the remake of The Hills Have Eyes (Two movies I actually like to a point) was a co-writer and co-producer here, which should be a good thing. I’m not sure how much of his writing fit into the final product, but I hope it’s very little because the script is terrible.

The events don’t flow together well at all, and the dialogue, especially Bentley’s, is as clichéd and tired as the genre it represents. Nichols decree of “Merry Christmas, Thomas” right before she finally gets her revenge is so obvious you probably would have said it before she did if I hadn’t told you.

I’ve always been fond of Rachel Nichols, especially her turn on the last season of Alias and the underrated summer fill-in show from a couple of years ago, The Inside. I think she could have a decent movie career as well; she’s extremely likable and very attractive. However, she needs to stay away from generic tripe like this and maybe take some smaller roles in better films to build her pedigree up.

The film also looks great. The parking garage setting is a stroke of genius, and I hope is used again in a much better film. Since so few people saw this one, I would assume that no one would look at anything with that setting as a copy cat. Those two positives do not make up for all of the negatives that this film has against it. This is a stupid movie that doesn’t deserve any kind of second look from those smart enough to stay away from it when it was in theaters.


Sam Loomis


Comment from John B
Time: April 17, 2008, 10:59 pm

I haven’t seen P2, but I have seen Throttle. A young man gets caught up in a scheme to rob the company he works for. Then, staying late in the parking garage to pull the heist, he gets locked in. A large truck appears and begins a game of cat and mouse. It actually involves other people and won’t let us know who is behind the wheel til the very end. And to keep the story of “man hunted in garage” from becoming too dull, we get flashbacks leading up to the man’s situation. It also gives us some glimpses into who might just be behind the wheel and why.

Not the greatest suspense movie ever, but not to bad. Give it a look.

Comment from Sam Loomis
Time: April 20, 2008, 9:09 pm

I will definitely check that one out. Thanks for the heads up.

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