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HARD CANDY(director: David Slade; screenwriter: Brian Nelson; cinematographer: Jo Willems; editor: Art Jones; music: Molly Nyman and Harry Escott; cast: Patrick Wilson (Jeff Kohlver), Ellen Page (Hayley Stark), Sandra Oh (Judy Tokuda), Odessa Rae (Janelle Rogers); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Richard Hutton/Michael Caldwell/David W. Higgins; Lionsgate; 2005)
“Hard to swallow provocative but exploitative jailbait revenge fantasy flick.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Hard to swallow provocative but exploitative jail-bait revenge fantasy flick. It entertains as feel-good fare for those who need to take pleasure in watching a baddie older man pedophile being tortured and mutilated by a girl, representing all girl vics, who turns the table on the ‘bad wolf’ and gives him an unwelcome lesson on abuse he won’t forget. I wonder if these same viewers would also get their jollies watching some of our troops work over the captives in Abu Ghraib. Former music video director David Slade helms this disturbing stylish cat-and-mouse bondage nail-biter; the sadistic script is by playwright Brian Nelson. If it weren’t for the sterling performances by the two main characters, Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson, this would be a totally indigestible offering. It’s the kind of perverted film where a shower should be mandatory after viewing.

Through an Internet chat-room precocious 14-year-old Hayley Stark (Ellen Page, 15-year-old from Nova Scotia) meets 32-year-old fashion photographer Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson) at a trendy coffeehouse called Nighthawks and they reveal their real identities for the real world. The past few weeks they went under the user names Thonggrrrrrl14 and Lensman319 and both displayed clever responses in their flirty messaging and seemed eager to meet. After chatting and finding they have so much in common in music, Hayley eagerly hops in Jeff’s car and heads for his Hollywood Hills lavish home. There she chugs down a screwdriver, dances on the sofa and soon reveals she’s not the one going down in this tabu meeting as she drugs the predator before he can strike and ties him up to a chair with rope. From here on it was sheer torture watching her carry out her sicko revenge plan, which actually makes her as creepy as him.

I don’t know what the film’s point was but, if it was trying to get over as a female empowerment movie or a warning to teens about the dangers of chat-rooms or as a guilty pleasure treat or as a plain shocker or just a girl fantasy film, I found it a bad watch (adding to the sour plot, there’s a stagnant staginess that keeps even the torture scenes dull and totally pointless). If the film is to be taken as a serious attempt to address an ongoing critical problem in society, this dramatization does a disservice to the vics who need better answers than the one presented here.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”