Okay, movie, here are my wrists, just go ahead and slice the hell out of them and save me the trouble. I mean, why else would you inflict such a depressing story on me?
I suppose the filmmakers were trying to make something arty here; a movie that defies the typical Hollywood formula. I don’t know. All that I can say is that Stolen had one of the most unsatisfying endings I’ve seen in a long time, making me feel like I wasted ninety-one minutes of my life.
Detective Tom Adkins (Jon Hamm) is a haunted man. Eight years ago his son was stolen, never to be seen again. Adkins’ obsession with finding the man that stole his boy threatens his job, his marriage, maybe even his sanity. It finds a new focus with the discovery of the remains of a boy murdered fifty years ago. As Adkins searches for the answer to this new mystery, he can’t help but see parallels with his own life, and soon he becomes convinced that the two cases are related.
So far so good, right? The story is a little clichéd, but it has potential for great drama. Unfortunately, Adkins’ story serves more as a framing device for the tale of Matthew Wakefield (Josh Lucas), the father of the boy whose remains Adkins finds. In short time, Wakefield loses both his job and his wife, leaving him with three boys, one of whom is mentally retarded. He tries to leave his kids with his wife’s family, but they refuse to take John because of his mental impairment. Matthew is left with no choice but to take the boy with him while he tries to find a new job and a new wife so he can restore his family.
Matthew’s story takes up the majority of the movie, and it is good—if depressing. I enjoy Josh Lucas and James Van Der Beek as actors and Stolen is no exception. Having never seen Jon Hamm before, I can’t really speak to his acting ability and I don’t want to form an opinion based on this movie because he has so little screen time and so little to do. His story really only functions to introduce and provide answers to Matthew’s story and I find it clunky and superfluous; so little time is devoted to it that it feels like an interruption of the real story. Supposedly the movie is based on a true story, so that may explain why the scriptwriter choose to tell the story in this way, but it doesn’t really work for me.
And then there’s the matter of the ending. Without giving too much away, I will reiterate that it was incredibly unsatisfying. The resolution centers on the revelation of the killer’s identity and how that provides closure for Adkins and his family. Given that we spend proportionally little time with Adkins’ story, I found that I couldn’t share in what should have been a deeply cathartic moment. I cared much more about Matthew and his pain than I did Adkins, and that really tempered my enjoyment of the ending. When it was all said and done, this movie was all about the terrible deaths of two boys with no sense of justice.
The movie is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with the audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 Stereo. English and Spanish subtitles are provided for the hearing impaired. The audio and video quality was excellent for this movie.
Neither of the extra features were very impressive. The trailer was nice enough, but doesn’t add anything to my enjoyment of the movie (which, granted, wasn’t great, but that’s beside the point). The behind the scenes feature had a few interesting tidbits about the movie, but, like the trailer, it didn’t add anything to my enjoyment of the overall movie experience.
Stolen had potential to be a solid period mystery, but the uneven split between the two storylines takes away from the stronger story. If the movie had focused on Matthew’s tale it would have been much better, but as it stands, this is a depressing, unsatisfying movie about murdered children.
IFC Films presents Stolen. Directed by: Anders Anderson. Starring: Josh Lucas, Jon Hamm, James Van Der Beek, Jimmy Bennett, Jessica Chastain, Rhona Mitra, and Joanna Cassidy. Written by: Glenn Taranto. Running time: 91 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: June 29, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.