First, you have to swallow that a kidnapping-simulation business would thrive in Atlantic City but somehow dwindle when relocated to Southern California, where bizarre alternative-therapy methods and kinkiness run rampant. Then, you need to believe that the person behind such an enterprise is a kind, vulnerable soul; he may force-feed a dozen hamburgers to a tied-up, terrified obese client, but his only aim is to help this poor sap lose weight. And — in Fifty Shades of Grey–style — he always assures even the most masochistic thrill-seekers that he won’t perpetrate any mock-torture tactics without their full consent. Finally, you need to will yourself to remain, at all times, two steps behind the plot (written by first-timer Mike Makowsky), in which a successful consultant pays this man a boatload of cash to abduct her for the whole weekend. She tells him she “doesn’t scare easily,” and even allows for slapping.
Will Ray (Pat Healy, who also debuts as director) get more than he bargained for from Anna (Taylor Schilling)? What follows is a stagy, tired, slapstick-heavy game of oneupmanship between bewigged, bumbling Ray and the considerably slyer, possibly mentally ill Anna. Sight gags involving crowbars, ball gags, and car trunks are what pass for dark comedy. Both stars overact frantically, particularly Schilling, who draws out Anna’s every sarcastic rejoinder and lip-biting tic to their broadest extent. And while the film, to its credit, doesn’t become a trite morality play, the ending is thin and contrived nonetheless.
Directed by Pat Healy
Opens May 5, Village East
Available on demand