Review: ‘Stolen Heart’

A patient, "Fargo"-inspired Canadian low-budgeter about a kidnapping gone awry, "Stolen Heart" is a witty crime movie that refreshingly devotes more care to character relationships than to the stylized shoot-'em-ups and sardonic dialogue that fill up most current entries in this genre. Pic should land limited arthouse distribution in its country of origin, but will probably find most of its audience on cable and video.

A patient, “Fargo”-inspired Canadian low-budgeter about a kidnapping gone awry, “Stolen Heart” is a witty crime movie that refreshingly devotes more care to character relationships than to the stylized shoot-’em-ups and sardonic dialogue that fill up most current entries in this genre. Pic should land limited arthouse distribution in its country of origin, but will probably find most of its audience on cable and video.

A trio of small-time hoods — Avery (Christopher Healey), Creed (James Gatto) and Joey (Lisa Ryder) — are looking for a big score, and when the tall, attractive Joey devises a plan to kidnap the daughter of a local self-help guru (Randy Hughson), they figure they’ve hit the jackpot.

Unsurprisingly, the kidnapping goes terribly wrong, and soon Joey finds herself alone in a basement with the girl; it turns out that Joey had a much more personal reason than blackmail for instigating the kidnapping.

Action takes place in the frostbittten suburbs of upstate New York and Ontario, Canada, and, like the Coens”96 indie smash, pic’s ambience is marked by its emphasis on the chilly atmosphere. Every character here is bundled up and shivering; plot points and character revelations are allowed to slowly thaw out and surprise.

First-time scripter-helmer Terry O’Brien interweaves family melodrama within a crime-movie format, which provides for some moments of deep emotion that are rare for this type of pic. A mother re-establishing her relationship with her daughter is eventually what drives the narrative, and by the end, the crime aspect of the film seems almost superfluous.

But therein lies “Stolen Heart’s” major problem: Why bother with the exaggerated crime element at all when the story is substantial enough as an offbeat family yarn? The final confrontation scene, which involves the increasingly evil guru, the daughter, Joey and her cronies, wouldn’t look out of place as a denouement in any studio or indie comedic crime piece. It’s unoriginal and detracts from the distinctive overall mood of the piece.

Production is technically solid, even impressive in light of its reported $ 100,000 budget. Lenser Christopher Bell serves up some picturesque landscape shots that nicely flavor the film’s mostly frigid look. Thesps do fine work, and lead Ryder should be able to take advantage of her sharp features and aggressive acting chops to land prime film work.

Stolen Heart

(COMEDY-THRILLER -- CANADIAN)

Production

A Backroad Films Corp. production. Produced by Terry O'Brien, Christopher Ball. Directed, written by Terry O'Brien.

Crew

Camera (color), Christopher Bell; editor, Rob Benson; music, George Brasovan; production designer, Astra Burka; costume designer, Vicki Graef; sound, Steven Gorman. Reviewed at Hollywood Film Festival , L.A., Aug. 10, 1998. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Joey ..... Lisa Ryder Robert Buchanon ..... Randy HughsonAgent Whitiker ..... Gary Farmer Avery ..... Chistopher Healey Creed ..... James Gatto Danielle ..... Shirley McQueen Crystal ..... Meghan Toll
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