Involving for neither the torture-porn crowd nor as a revenge thriller, “7 Days” is the empty depiction of a father’s elaborate vengeance on his young daughter’s killer. A pseudo-artistic veneer and forgettable characters can’t hide the obvious point that acts of revenge ensure a self-destruction lacking catharsis. The pic, from Quebec director Daniel Grou (going by the pseudonym, “Podz”) and writer Patrick Senecal (adapting his own novel) figures to bring mild returns on its Feb. 1 Canadian release. As part of Sundance Selects new VOD project, the pic will be offered in cable pay-per-view after its first Sundance public screening.
The Hamel family, with father Bruno (Claude Legault), a surgeon; mother Sylvie (Fanny Mallette), a gallery owner; and their only daughter, 8-year-old Jasmine (Rose-Marie Coallier), are introduced as a typical upper-middle-class suburban family. Jasmine trots off to school alone, but never appears in class. With the kind of speed that would never happen in real life, police find her murdered body in the snow, and shortly thereafter arrest suspect Anthony (Martin Dubreuil) who has a history of child molestations.
“7 Days” maintains a cold veneer, fine for films by fellow Quebecois directors like Robert Lepage and Denis Villeneuve, but fatal here, particularly in the dramatization of the parents’ less-than-distraught reactions to events.
Something tells Bruno to take matters into his own hands, and he somehow executes an intricate plan (enlisting help from a carpenter and an ambulance driver) to kidnap Anthony and imprison him in a lakeside cabin in the woods. Bruno goes about torturing Anthony, on and off, for the following hour-plus, and while director Grou lacks the gene for sheer, bloody exploitation, he also doesn’t know how to rack up the tension and get under viewers’ collective skin. Bruno applies his surgical skills to trigger maximum pain, but he clearly doesn’t know where this is leading — to death, confession or something else?
Senecal’s scenario even flubs the notion, however trite, that Bruno is becoming as monstrous as Anthony, and by suggesting that he wants to be caught. Otherwise, why would he be constantly phoning Sylvie and the cops, led by investigator Mercure (Remy Girard)? Denouement lacks suspense and irony.
Only Girard delivers flashes of emotional texture as a cop who has himself lost a loved one, while Legault and Mallette disappoint in roles that actors should relish. Dubreuil is reduced to yelping and mugging.
Ultra-sleek look by d.p. Bernard Couture and production designer Andre Guimond is possibly intended to cut against the ghoulish nature of the material, but feels miscalculated.