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Prisoners (Script) – Review

No scripts today, rather a review of (a hot) one.
Prisoners is a spec script by Aaron Guzikowski that sold for about a gazillion dollars.

The story is about “a Boston family-man (Keller Dover) whose 6-year-old daughter with her best friend are kidnapped,” as THR puts it.
Unsatisfied with the work of the lead detective (Loki), the father takes matters into his own hands by kidnapping the man he thinks is responsible for the young girls’ demise to find out where they are. Loki meanwhile is trying to unravel the truth behind the kidnappings.

Three big names were attached to the project.
Mark Wahlberg as Dover and Christian Bale as Loki, with Bryan Singer set to direct.
Unfortunately, the deal fell flat on its face only a couple of weeks ago when Alcon acquired Prisoners.
It is very unfortunate.
I’m sure Christian Bale could have pulled the Loki style. The character seems like a modern version of Public Enemies‘ Melvin Purvis (albeit with more intensity). On the other hand, Keller Dover is an unusual role for Mark Wahlberg. It would have been an exciting part for him.

The basic premise might seem a bit rehashed but Guzikowski actually does bring an interesting and fresh execution to the storyline.
Although good, the script is definitely not the great movie I was expecting to read given its high buzz (and dollars thrown at it).

Steven Zeitchik over at his Risky Riz Blog described it as “a real page-turner.”
Even if I agree regarding the fact that the last forty pages get you involved, I had a lot of trouble entering the world of our characters, mainly in the first third of the film. I dare say the beginning is almost boring.
Guzikowski in my opinion takes too much time setting up his characters and going into the meat of what we’re waiting for.
To give you an idea, the “kidnapping the kidnapper” storyline, even though it’s supposed to be the major part of the movie, begins just before the middle of the script is reached.
As for the more mysterious elements surrounding the kidnapping(s), they’re only introduced twenty or so pages later (with forty remaining). Pretty late in the game for me.
This is a bit more problematic considering that in true Hollywood fashion, the movie should be described as “Seven meets Saw with a hint of Mystic River.”

The first two films are especially true regarding the overal tone of Prisoners. The ambiance is indeed very dark; there are no jokes which makes for a heavy read, even until the end.
In addition, the mystery complexifies and deepens as the story progresses.
I’m still unsure about a couple of details, and unfortunately there seem to be both loose threads and pointless clues (not red herring). There’s this creepy running theme around mazes that is never really explained even though it could have led to some great pay-offs.
Fortunately though you’re kept guessing as to what’s going to our characters until the very end (in the same way as the first Saw ended sort of).

The characters are well-defined, and I had this Mystic River vibe going on as both movies are set in Boston and the parents are both blue-collar-type in similar situations. There’s an overarching dread throughout the story as well.
I’m interested in seeing who plays the mother as they do have “juicy part” like Zeitchik puts it.

In the end, despite a weak first act, the dark thriller that is Prisoners has a strong enough hold that it keeps you waiting until the very end, if anything just because you want to know who did it and why.
Alcon Entertainment is currently fast-tracking production on the project for a release slated around October 2010.
Here’s to hoping the new cast will do justice to the script.

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