Destined to be better remembered for its grisly billboard imagery than for its relatively tame torture-porn tropes, “Captivity” is a thoroughly nasty piece of work that nonetheless earns credit for generating modest suspense after a predictable but effective plot twist around the 50-minute mark. Pic likely will be a nonstarter as a theatrical item — given the recent B.O. performance of “Hostel: Part II,” the subgenre may be in at least temporary decline — but devotees of such disreputable product may pony up for an unrated DVD edition.
Elisha Cuthbert stars as Jennifer Tree, a drop-dead-gorgeous supermodel who inexplicably traipses around Manhattan without bodyguards, entourage or even attentive paparazzi in close proximity. In this kind of pic, that kind of woman is just asking for trouble. And sure enough, while flying solo in a trendy but curiously underpopulated nightspot, she is drugged and abducted by a hulking stalker who somehow avoids attracting the attention of other hearty partyers in the place.
Jennifer awakens in a basement cell where, during a series of aggressively unpleasant but oddly tedious episodes, she is physically and psychologically tortured by a hooded captor. The fiend forces her to drink a cocktail of pureed eyeballs and entrails, view videotapes of sadistically manhandled women — evidently, previous “guests” in the basement — and unwillingly participate in the mistreatment of her pet dog. He also forces her to wear clothing that appears to have come off the rack at a Sluts ‘R Us outlet, which, “Captivity” suggests, may be the worst torture one can inflict on a fashion-conscious supermodel.
Hope briefly flickers when Jennifer makes contact with a hunky fellow prisoner (Daniel Gillies) in the next cell. Ultimately, however, the abused but unbowed heroine must rely on her own wiles (and a convenient shotgun) to trigger a climax that probably will allow slumming director Roland Joffe (“The Killing Fields” but, on the other hand, “The Scarlet Letter”) and scripters Larry Cohen and Joseph Tura to reassure themselves that, rather than merely wallowing in toxic misogyny, they’ve concocted some sort of fable about female empowerment. Yeah, right.
Cuthbert doesn’t really have to do much in the way of acting here — in most scenes, depending on her character’s mental state, all she has to do is shout some variation of “Please, don’t!” or “You bastard!” or “Where’s my makeup?” — but she is never less than credible. To say anything about her supporting players would risk spoiling the aforementioned twist.
Production values for this U.S.-Russian co-production — filmed largely at Mosfilm studios — are up to genre standards. Views of severed body parts are kept to a minimum, but gorehounds will delight in the sight of acid-scarred flesh on more than one occasion.