There appears to be no onscreen torture we can invent but some producer’s first thought is “I’d like to see Noomi Rapace undergo that in a movie.” Graphic sexual violence? Niels Arden Oplev’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.” Excruciating self-surgery? Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus.” Strangulation by a dead woman’s identical twin? Brian De Palma’s “Passion.” And now we get “Rupture,” perhaps the sine qua non of the “let’s torture Noomi Rapace” subgenre in which she is tased, kidnapped, tied to a gurney, repeatedly drugged, forced to wear a helmet full of spiders and other things too spoilery, and too daft, to go into here.
But maybe the cruellest extreme rendition to be visited on Rapace is her ongoing, tantalizing proximity to the A-list, where despite an impressive resume, she’s never quite managed to establish herself. And that is one effort in which “Rupture” does her no favors. It’s a grimy little B-movie that squanders its slight early promise when it devolves into derivative sci-fi nonsense, and it’s a disappointment that both she and director Steven Shainberg should seem so at home here. It’s been 15 years since Shainberg’s wonderful “Secretary” and 11 since his lesser, yet still interesting “Fur,” but this film replaces his facility with gentle, peculiar inquisitions into fetishism with something much more generic.
Rapace plays Renee, a divorced, arachnophobic mother of one living an average suburban life, worrying about her son’s problems with math and her own prickly relationship with her ex. Or maybe not so average: a few CCTV shots of the interior of her house suggest someone is watching. These shady figures are led by Michael Chiklis who is credited as Bald Man, which gives you some idea of the characterization that he, and the rest of the mysterious cabal who abduct and experiment on Renee, are accorded. It’s a constant source of relief (but also bafflement) that the eclectic cast is as good as they are: Were Renee’s captors not played by talents like Lesley Manville, Kerry Bishé, and Peter Stormare as well as Chiklis, (all of whom seem to be having a grand old time, to be fair) there might be no way of telling them apart.
The majority of the film is Rapace writhing against her leather restraints and resourcefully deploying a lucky utility knife, in between encounters with her her emotionless abductors. And for a time it almost feels like it might have a sort of low-rent Kafka-meets-“Cube” purity to its conceit. But Shainberg and Brian Nelson’s screenplay intrudes, and soon whatever metaphorical or metaphysical potential the premise may have had evaporates in favor of plodding exposition that is more bunk than an Amsterdam hostel.
This is a plot that feels lazily reverse-engineered from a collection of disparate, pre-existing scenes and elements, rather like one of those cooking shows where contestants are given a selection of random ingredients and forced to come up with a meal. “Rupture” plays like Shainberg had a giant tombola in front of him and pulled out names and tropes by chance (“Lesley Manville!” “Fear of spiders!” “A room whose wallpaper pattern is the carpet from ‘The Shining’!” “Nondescript warehouse location!” “Noomi Rapace!”), before cooking up a dish that, sadly, tastes like so much reheated hash.