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Steven (Phillippe) and Shannon (Lefevre) are a young American couple visiting Puerto Rico to adopt their first child. Nina (Briana Roy) is a survivor of the earthquake in Haiti, and the happy couple are excited to speak to her without the aid of Skype. They meet and hit it off right away, but Nina's passport still needs to be arranged. Their adoption agency representative, Ms. Reigert (Jacki Weaver) assures them it will be done by Wednesday, and all they've got to do is hang around on beautiful sun-baked beaches and relax underneath the palm trees for a few days before heading home. On the way to the beach, they meet their neighbor, Benjamin (John Cusack), a fellow American on a business trip who seems to want to be friends more than they want to be friends with him. Still, things are generally peachy until one day the couple awakes and Nina is missing. They go to the police, and the chief (Luis Guzman) throws out a heartbreaking theory: the girl has been "reclaimed," and Steven and Shannon have been bilked out of thousands of dollars.
The thing about a film called Reclaim is that the audience is basically waiting for the other shoe to drop, and the balance between character development and delaying the inevitable is a tricky one. It's great for the film to spend time on developing the characters and their relationship, especially Steven and Shannon finding a happiness that has previously eluded them, but director Alan White builds for too long, well past the moment the viewer begins tapping their feet. He obscures the couple's tragic backstory for no reason, a decision that makes little to no sense given it informs so much of the way Phillippe and Lefevre are playing their characters. An additional bombshell hidden by Phillippe's character is revealed almost out of nowhere, in a scene that could've been plopped almost anywhere. Were the front half of Reclaim better paced, the film might've been a far more effective suspense thriller.
On the other hand, Reclaim's biggest problem is that it brings nothing to the table. Kidnapping stories set in foreign countries are well-worn territory for American thrillers, with every would-be tourist irrationally afraid they're going to have all of their money or perhaps some internal organs taken by unscrupulous locals. Reclaim at least has the decency to involve some Americans, but Benjamin's scheme to get the rest of Steven and Shannon's money out of the bank feels more than familiar. Reclaim also suffers from not upping the ante enough. Slimming down the set-up would also give the movie more time and space to offer up any number of stacking plot twists rather than one straightforward "get the money out" arc that feels padded with generic chases. Worst of all, characters often behave illogically or irrationally in order to keep these scenes going. At one point, characters climb into a Jeep with a shotgun and end up in a car chase, yet nobody thinks to try and use the shotgun on the other player, which would significantly shorten the sequence. Later, an injured foot magically heals when the character is out of danger.
The performances by the film's strong cast are all fairly impressive, especially Cusack and Phillippe, two actors who tend to give the impression in interviews that they're a bit cynical about the balance of business vs. art. Such an attitude would suggest they might be prone to slip into autopilot on a cheap B-thriller, but Cusack is his usual loose-limbed, off-the-cuff self, even hamming it up a little bit in the early scenes where his character is playing a role. The chemistry between Phillippe and Lefevre is surprisingly strong and believable, and although he's cast in the traditional "action hero" style role, he adds enough frayed edges to the character to make him feel more realistic. It's only a shame that Lefevre isn't offered the same freedom, with her character's survival instinct predictably downplayed to allow Steven to save her (despite a promising bit of resourcefulness kicking things off). White also struggles to find the right balance between sentiment and silliness when it comes to the film's all-too-real inspiration. Reclaim never quite makes trafficking seem silly, but it does exploit the victims of Haiti a little bit in the film's questionable opening moments.
I suppose if big heads and block grids are the new thing, the art for Reclaim is a step in the right direction, if still thoroughly rooted in "mediocre" territory. The title is presented in bold block letters with an image of the little girl inside of them -- kinda stylish! -- with a pic of Philippe and Lefevre running through the forest on the bottom and an image of Cusack and Weaver on top. I'd have flipped them, but whatever. The weird thing is, the nearly similar art on the inside has a very small version of the title, which makes the black space in between the two images for the title to sit in look very odd. Anyway, the entire thing is slid inside a glossy, embossed slipcover, and there is an insert with the UltraViolet digital copy code inside the non-eco Viva Elite case.
The Video and Audio
Lionsgate's 1.85:1 1080p AVC video and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio deliver the experience of a full-fledged blockbuster on Reclaim's home video release. Colors during the early, happy scenes are bright and vivid, with a postcard clarity for the beautiful scenes set on the beach. Later scenes are darker and more desaturated (or perhaps that's just the way it looks as the two characters' clothes get dirtier and dirtier and daylight is replaced by a constant waning afternoon), but still retain the same razor-sharp level of detail. Some minor crush may be present in a dark flashback, and a bit of banding might crop up, but it's all negligible. The soundtrack offers an immersive, pulse-pounding mix of effects and surround activity that manages to overcome the generic nature of the film's drum-heavy "action" score. Gunshots, car tires, and other thrill-a-minute effects sound quite nice, and of course the dialogue comes through just fine. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and English and Spanish subtitles are also provided.
The disc opens with an audio commentary by director Alan White. A fine but fairly unremarkable track where White talks about the various challenges of the filmmaking process, trivia about the sets and scenes, and working with the cast. He also talks from time to time about the real-life issues that influenced the film, which is easily the most interesting aspect of the discussion.
Video features include "Behind the Scenes of Reclaim" (17:11, HD), a generic look behind the scenes with cast and crew recounting the story, talking about the script, praising their co-workers, and describing the mood on the set and on location; a reel of deleted and extended scenes (8:14, HD), the two most substantial being one of Steven and Shannon trying to convince the bank to do the transfer, and a somewhat unconvincing post-accident beat; the uncut interviews (14:24, HD) with cast and crew used for the making-of featurette, which do not do anything to upset the rule of thumb that such materials are better seen within the context of even a generic EPK; and a "Fighting the World" music video (3:23, HD), performed by Mike Harris.
Reclaim is never bad, it just repeatedly inflates a balloon of suspense with a tiny pinprick in it, allowing that tension to slowly deflate over time instead of paying it off. It's handsomely photographed, decently performed, and very forgettable, although some people might have a perfectly agreeable evening watching it. Rent it.
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