×

Chained

Jennifer Lynch's "Chained" is a repugnant exercise in physical and psychological sadism that, like her "Boxing Helena" 20 years ago, raises the question of whether a movie directed by a woman can be as mindlessly misogynist as any man's.

With:
With: Vincent D'Onofrio, Eamon Farren, Gina Philips, Conor Leslie, Evan Bird, Jake Weber, Julia Ormond.

Jennifer Lynch’s “Chained” is a repugnant exercise in physical and psychological sadism that, like her “Boxing Helena” 20 years ago, raises the question of whether a movie directed by a woman can be as mindlessly misogynist as any man’s. Well crafted within its extreme limits, it boasts no character insight, social commentary or discernible overall point to counter charges that this is just a redundant wallow in arted-up, torture-porn cruelty. There being a niche aud for such exercises, “Chained” will doubtless find defenders and modest profits down the road. It’s bypassing theatrical for home-format release in the U.S.

Despite attendant controversy and a high-profile lawsuit, “Boxing Helena’s” grotesque romance between a stalker and the shrewish love object he kidnaps (then carefully, surgically dismembers) fizzled because it simply was a bad movie. At least it had a novel premise, however indebted to Nipponese cult classic “Blind Beast.”

By contrast, “Chained” offers something depressingly familiar, boiled down to its essence: Serial killer abducts, beats, rapes and murders numerous women, the sole fillip being that he also keeps a boy captive as servant and protege. The “purity” of this nasty presentation is meant to render it all the more shocking and real, unencumbered by such distractions as character detail or plot complications. But instead, it shortchanges the humanity of the situation, reducing the pic to a repetitive portrait of (primarily) male-on-female violence where victims and perps are all one-dimensional. One suspects Lynch thinks she’s making a statement by paring things down to the ugly essentials, yet “Chained” can’t escape accusations of pandering to the lowest of common denominators.

After some de rigueur warm-up mayhem, the pic introduces a loving family about to be ripped apart. Cautioned by her dad (Jake Weber) to take a cab rather than public transit home after a multiplex matinee, Sarah (Julia Ormond) and 9-year-old son Tim (Evan Bird) grow alarmed when the driver, Bob (Vincent D’Onofrio), misses their exit, then takes them to the middle of nowhere. By the time Tim is dragged into Bob’s isolated ranch, Sarah is already dead. The kid is told he wasn’t part of the plan, but since he’s here, he’ll cook, clean and otherwise serve his captor, with harsh punishment for escape attempts or other infractions.

Ten unpleasant, monotonous, shackled years pass, with “Rabbit” (as Bob calls him) now played by Eamon Farren. As he’s coming of age, the youth is assigned anatomy-textbook study in preparation for his first “taste of a woman,” which in Bob’s logic is far worse than it sounds. But the boy resists doing violent harm.

That conflict leads to a climactic upheaval, and the possibility that “Chained” might not be wholly cynical after all. But Lynch’s screenplay (oddly credited as based on another, unproduced one by Damien O’Donnell) then makes a heinous mistake, springing a twist ending that comes out of nowhere, feels entirely gratuitous, and introduces myriad new credibility gaps in a story that’s already got plenty.

Eye-blink flashbacks to the villain’s abused childhood rep the pic’s sole attempts to explain Bob’s actions. Unsurprisingly, then, D’Onofrio delivers a one-note ogre whose affected speech is one part special ed, one part John Malkovich. He’s working seriously here, as is the androgynous, rail-thin, deer-in-the-headlights Farren. But they aren’t given a context sufficiently fleshed-out to reward that effort; neither are the actresses asked to do more than whimper, plead and bleed.

The effect is, perhaps deliberately, more dreary than frightening. That said, tech contributions are solid; Sara McCudden’s production design and Shane Daly’s Red lensing mine almost too much aesthetic value from dirty, yellowed interiors, and Climax Golden Twins’ score is ambient-creepy.

Chained

Production: An Anchor Bay Films presentation of an Envision Media Arts production. (International sales: Myriad Pictures, Santa Monica.) Produced by David Buelow, Rhonda Baker, Lee Nelson. Executive producers, Kevin Kasha, Craig Anderson, Gerard Demaer. Directed by Jennifer Lynch. Screenplay, Lynch, based on a screenplay by Damian O'Donnell.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Shane Daly; editor, Chris A. Peterson; music, Climax Golden Twins; production designer/set decorator, Sara McCudden; costume designer, Brenda Shenher; sound (Dolby Digital), Kevin Hemmingson; supervising sound editors, Chris Reynolds, Carl Grana; sound designer, Scott Jennings; assistant director, Trevor Cunningham; casting, Shannon Makhanian. Reviewed at Calgary Film Festival (Late Shows), Oct. 29, 2012. (Also in Fantasia Film Festival.) MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 94 MIN.

Cast: With: Vincent D'Onofrio, Eamon Farren, Gina Philips, Conor Leslie, Evan Bird, Jake Weber, Julia Ormond.

More Scene

  • Dwayne Wade holds up the legend

    Dwyane Wade, Megan Rapinoe Win Big at 2019 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards

    The 2019 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards was filled with incredible athletes, inspiring moments and — of course — a massive amount of slime. “I love the kids. I love the slime. I loved the games. I love seeing celebrities and athletes like become kids again. And it’s like my favorite thing,” Michael Strahan told [...]

  • Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani

    Dave Bautista Talks Representation in Hollywood and Defying Stereotypes with 'Stuber'

    Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani make an unlikely duo in “Stuber,” an R-rated comedy about a police officer and his Uber driver. But the two connected over the rare chance to star in the film as actors of Asian descent (Baustia is half-Filipino and Nanjiani is Pakistani). “I’ve been stereotyped for a couple different reasons [...]

  • Skin

    How Jamie Bell Transformed Into a Neo-Nazi for 'Skin'

    Anyone who still associates British actor Jamie Bell with his breakout role as a young boy who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer will quickly forget all about “Billy Elliot” after seeing “Skin,” which screened at ArcLight Hollywood on Thursday night. “I was shocked,” the film’s writer-director, Guy Nattiv, told Variety of his leading man’s [...]

  • HOLLYWOOD, CA - JULY 10: (L

    Leonardo DiCaprio-Produced Doc 'Sea of Shadows' Takes on Mexican Cartels

    Leonardo DiCaprio‘s latest eco-documentary “Sea of Shadows” doesn’t shy away from taking on Mexican cartels. “For some of the guys there, he is state enemy number one at the moment,” said producer Wolfgang Knöpfler at the documentary’s premiere on Wednesday night at Neuehouse in Los Angeles. “The cartels don’t like him.” Appian Way and DiCaprio [...]

  • Megan Rapinoe and USWNT - 2019

    ESPY Awards 2019: What You Didn’t See on TV

    The ESPYs’ television broadcast only paints so much of the picture of what went down at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles from sports’ biggest award ceremony. Viewers at home saw Tracy Morgan host, celebrities like Sandra Bullock present and athletes including Drew Brees, Alex Morgan and Giannis Antetokounmpo receive awards, but they didn’t quite [...]

  • Queen and Slim

    'Queen & Slim' First Look, Motown Panel With Valerie Jarrett Highlight Essence Festival Events

    Universal Pictures hosted an exclusive preview event at Essence Festival Saturday to screen the first twelve minutes of “Queen & Slim,” the hotly anticipated film written by Lena Waithe and directed  by Melina Matsoukas, known for her visionary work with Beyoncé (“Lemonade,” “Formation”) and “Insecure.” Held at the historic Gallier Hall in New Orleans, the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content