When staff screenwriters get together and just have to pump out a script for a given studio, you usually get a formulaic and typical Hollywood script, as is the case with “Panic Room.”
The first thing that should be addressed is that Jodie Foster (“Silence of the Lambs”) was not supposed to be the lead in the film. Nicole Kidman (“Moulin Rouge”) was cast, but after three weeks of shooting, she injured herself on the set and Foster was rushed in. This meant that Foster didn’t go through her very rigorous process of choosing the script; she simply answered the call of a friend and went to help out. With what they gave her and no rehearsals, she did very well. But despite the good performances by Foster and Forrest Whitaker (“Ghost Dog”), this film is contaminated with the performances by newcomer Kristen Stewart and Jared Leto (“Urban Legend”).
Being her film debut, Stewart can be forgiven and possibly overlooked, but an audience member should expect more out of Leto, an actor who has already appeared in numerous films. The script didn’t provide very good dialogue; Foster made it work but Leto just made it worse. His character went from laughable to overbearing and then to flat-out annoying.
As far as the plot goes, it was feasible for the greater part of the movie. It began as believable, except for the attitude from the daughter, and the scene is set up very nicely. It’s an oversized Upper West Side home with six fireplaces, an elevator and the panic room. If the thieves’ motives, or at least how they obtained the knowledge of what is in the panic room, were presented earlier in the storyline, it would have made the stakes higher and it would have given the audience a clue as to what was going on. But instead of giving some valuable feedback, the script focused on making Leto’s character as annoying as possible and then before you know it, the plot delves into events that are almost as ridiculous as Leto’s cornrows or having country-singer Dwight Yoakam as a bad-ass villain. It takes such a turn, if fact, that you start to root for Whitaker, a thief and the antagonist of this piece.
As I said, the greater part of the movie is feasible. It is entertaining and thought provoking, so it may be worth seeing, if not at the Cinema Saver, at least as a rental. Jodie Foster, even with limited time to look at the script, pulls off a good performance and I always like Forrest Whitaker. So, this is going to receive a C+, simply because above the bad acting by Stewart and Leto, and above the manufactured, dull dialogue, it ends up being something that, at times, keeps you on the edge of your seat. The direction of David Fincher is always something a moviegoer should experience. n
Suggestions with Jodie Foster: “The Accused” (only if you can handle a very realistic group rape scene), “Silence of the Lambs,” “Taxi Driver,” “Contact,” “Maverick,” “The Hotel New Hampshire,” “Little Man Tate”
Suggestions with Forest Whitaker: “Good Morning Vietnam,” “Ghost Dog” “The Way of the Samurai,” “Light It Up,” “Jason’s Lyric,” “Platoon”
More directed by David Fincher: “Fight Club,” “Seven,” “The Game”