J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Shainberg’s Rupture

If Martyrs was torture porn as informed by millennial theology, this would be the equivalent for the secular faith so many place in UFOs and fringe conspiracy theories. When a shadowy cabal abducts and tortures a single mother, they do so for the sake of what they consider the greater good. Isn’t that always the case? However, their latest victim will be surprisingly resourceful in Steven Shainberg’s Rupture (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Renee Morgan is pretty cool for a mom, but her ex is a big jerkweed, so their son is a bit confused. She had planned to go skydiving with friends as an exercise in empowerment, but winds up in a life and death struggle instead. As the victim of a highly-organized kidnapping, Morgan finds herself captive in a grungy, dungeon-like laboratory, where the evil people in lab coats and business suits try to get her to “rupture” through drug treatments and scare tactics, a la the rats in 1984 (its spiders for Morgan).

Just what it means to rupture is sort of a secret, but it is safe to say it would profoundly alter Morgan’s nature and identity. Regardless, she would prefer not to stick around to find out. Her mothering instincts override everything, as we can easily believe. However, we would also expect her drive to reunite with her son to bring out more of a killer instinct as well, but Morgan is strangely well-behaved during her escapes into the ventilation ducts.

In other hands, Rupture could have been far more torture-focused, so Shainberg’s restraint, so to speak, is appreciated. The top shelf cast also helps immensely. Noomi Rapace does some of her best work since the Lisbeth Salander trilogy as the resilient Morgan, making her both resolute and vulnerable. Michael Chiklis, Kerry Bishé, Lesley Manville, and Peter Stormare bring more color and variation to her tormentors than you would expect. Even if it is not spectacularly original, the lab-lair is still a creepily effective setting.

The real problem is it simply isn’t much fun to watch a narrative like this unless it evolves into a shameless payback movie. The fundamental premise, incorporating elements of Martyrs, X-Files, and any number of abduction horror movies, is not exactly unprecedented either. In this case, Shainberg makes us go through all that for an awkwardly flat payoff. The tension is considerable and the performances are more than competent, but it is still hard to justify the trip they take us on. Earning deeply mixed emotions, Rupture opens tomorrow (4/28) in New York, at the Cinema Village.

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