WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Sleepy-eyed Arkin is a petty thief who uses his legit job as a day-laborer for a remodeling company to case potential targets. Desperate to raise the cash necessary to settle a debt with his ex-wife who herself is in deep with some nasty loansharks he goes for one last score by raiding the bucolic home of his most recent employer a wealthy family that’s just left town on vacation.
But when he arrives at the house to do the job Arkin quickly realizes that the family never left; they became captives of Jigsaw — errr the Collector — a masked maniac who’s gone a step beyond the standard torture routine by rigging the entire house with a series of elaborate booby traps to ensure that anyone attempting to escape is met with an excruciating end. It’s that latter detail that helps convince Arkin to stay and try to put a stop to the Collector’s evil ambitions.
WHO’S IN IT?
In the grand low-budget horror tradition The Collector's cast is stocked with a group of attractive little-known modestly talented actors working presumably for scale led by Josh Stewart (episodes of CSI: Miami and Criminal Minds) Andrea Roth (Rescue Me one episode of Lost) Madeline Zima (Californication an episode of Grey’s Anatomy) Daniella Alonso (one episode each on CSI Knight Rider and Without a Trace) and ... honestly does it really matter who the rest of the cast members are? Most of them are drenched in blood and virtually unrecognizable for the most part anyway.
Could there be a less appealing tagline to a movie than “from the writers of Saw IV V and VI?” The phrase essentially means if we’re lucky The Collector has a chance at being just as lame and played-out as those flicks have become. Huzzah!
As you might expect from the pedigree of its filmmakers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton The Collector’s plot involves a sadistic madman subjecting assorted victims to various grisly surprisingly imaginative forms of torture. But unlike the latter Saw flicks The Collector manages to introduce some new elements that add a solid degree of suspense those films have increasingly lacked. In short it’s actually scary — in the beginning at least.
The acting not surprisingly ranges from average to distractingly poor. But that’s par for the course for films of this ilk. What’s most unfortunate about The Collector is that it gradually dispenses with the horror and substitutes torture in its place its tone transitioning disappointingly from frightening to repulsive during the second act. Then as if to emphasize the change the final third of the film is littered with one gruesome money shot after another. There’s nary a sensitive body part that doesn’t get punctured torn sliced or straight-up lopped off by the closing credits.
When Arkin first enters the house director Marcus Dunstan pieces together a gripping cat-and-mouse chase as the Collector slowly stalks his uninvited guest. As the would-be thief encounters one disturbing trap after another in his vain effort to escape Dunstan raises the tension to a fever pitch by blending tried-and-true horror devices (the creaky stairwell et al.) with expert timing and camera work.
The Collector is like the MacGyver of horror villains jury-rigging his adopted lair with enough ghastly booby traps — all made with common household items no less — to impress the Viet Cong. The place is like Disneyland for murdurous sociopaths.
Pride is “inspired” by true events. Unlike movies “based” on true events those that are “inspired” can take the bare bones of a true story and build exponentially upon them. It focuses on swim coach Jim Ellis (Terrence Howard)—not by the way to be confused with the great boxer Jimmie Ellis—who inspired in a group of inner-city kids “pride determination and resilience” when he was assigned to monitor a rundown Philadelphia recreation center in the early 1970s. As one would expect in a film of this sort Coach Ellis instills in his kids a will to struggle and fight--and to paddle their way to glory. Along the way they contend with the hazards of urban life (drugs crime) and the ugliness of racism. The kids learn teamwork and respect and the coach learns a thing or two about himself too. Terrence Howard who’s in such a beautiful groove as an actor that he can almost do no wrong brings his trademark intensity and passion to the role of swim coach Jim Ellis. He’s tough but tender forceful yet contemplative--and everything a big-screen coach should be. He also has great chemistry with the kids and particularly with Bernie Mac whose custodian of the rec center becomes a great sounding board for Coach Ellis and the swimmers. If Howard is a great screen coach--and he is--than Mac is a great assistant coach. It would be nice to see them paired up again. Kimberly Elise is very pretty and very good in another stock role that of a city councilwoman eventually won over by Howard leading to a potential (and predictable) romance. Even Tom Arnold cast as an antagonistic and racist rival swim coach manages a good turn. This is the first feature from director Sunu Gonera and he brings an enthusiastic approach to absolutely formula material. The swimming scenes are exciting and even better the scenes that focus on the characters are just as stimulating. Besides any director who can get a good performance out of Tom Arnold surely has something. Films of this sort can be done well and they can be done badly--and we’ve all seen countless examples of the latter. Pride is clearly a feel-good movie from the first frame to the last. And guess what? It all works. Every second of it. Pride’s corniness quotient which should be off the scale is instead supplanted (refreshingly so) by a good old-fashioned sense of storytelling and heart. It gets its message across without being heavy and that is tantamount to a victory in itself.