At first blush, The Betrayed appears to have the trappings of a taut, effective thriller.
Foreboding locale? Check.
Attractive woman in peril? Check.
Apple-cheeked child in peril? Check.
Masked bad guys? Check.
Suspense? Suspense? Suspense, anyone?
Alas, the elements don't quite gel in The Betrayed. It's all a bit obvious, a bit clunky, by the numbers. And yet writer-director Amanda Gusack's modest thriller is not without its moments of low-rent, cheesy fun.
Jamie Taylor (Melissa George) and her young son, Michael (Connor Christopher Levins), are kidnapped after a car accident and tossed into a dank, rotting warehouse. Her ski mask-wearing captors explain to Jamie that they have a beef with Jamie's husband, Kevin (Christian Campbell). Turns out that Jamie's hubby of six years, much to the woman's shock, works for a vast crime syndicate from which he has stolen $40 million and skipped the country.
Jamie's kidnappers are Kevin's business associates, and they have a simple proposition. If she hopes to save the life of her little boy, she must cull through scores of secretly recorded conversations at home between her and Kevin in hopes of finding some clues about what he did with the missing money.
The twists along the way are as predictable as the sunrise. The lead kidnapper, a smoldering-eyed fellow named Alek (Oded Fehr), quickly reveals hints of his tormented, sensitive soulfulness. But that soft side doesn't stop the bad guys from exploiting Michael's diabetes, a la Panic Room, for one of those requisite will-he-receive-a-glucose-shot-in-time? scenes.
The Betrayed might be drab, but it should not be dismissed out of hand. The film admirably limits itself to the warehouse, leaving the locale only for a brief prologue and epilogue. It's an ambitious move that offers some nicely claustrophobic moments when we are forced into Jamie's restricted vantage point, but Gusack's script undermines the promise of her own premise with on-the-nose dialogue and some eye-rolling contrivances. This is one of those flicks in which characters have unfortunate conversations at the exact time they're in danger of being overheard.
Gusack also saddles her capable actors -- the glaring exception being Campbell, who comes off like a more featherweight Ryan Reynolds (is that even possible?) -- with some credibility-straining behavior. Melissa George does a fine job proving herself to be more than just a knockout, but her character seems to regard Michael as more of a plot device than an actual flesh-and-blood kid. The boy is literally yanked in and out of scenes like a mannequin. Did it never occur to the filmmakers that they might have him, say, interact with his mother? Never do we really get a sense of a relationship between mother and child.
In the end, that sense of dull mechanics, of going through the motions, is what betrays The Betrayed.
The review screener provided does not represent final product, and so it is impossible to fairly judge video or audio quality. The picture is presented in anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1. For what it's worth, the review disc was serviceable, if unremarkable. There was some softness and a bit of noise in a number of scenes, but nothing particularly distracting.
See above. The 5.1 Dolby Surround was beset by inconsistent volume, but again the absence of a final product makes it impossible to assess the sound. A Spanish-language 5.1 Dolby Surround track is also available.
Optional subtitles are in English, Spanish and French.
A rental at best. The Betrayed has glimmers of interest but never lives up to the promise of its set-up.