The Captive only steals the audience's time

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      Starring Ryan Reynolds and Rosario Dawson. Rated PG.

      It’s a good thing for Atom Egoyan that there isn’t a three-strike rule with movies. If Egoyan’s last couple of projects seem to indicate that he’s losing his creative touch, The Captive is the sort of torturously misguided dud that could easily destroy a career.

      Cowritten and directed by Egoyan, The Captive tells the story of a young girl who’s kidnapped from the back seat of the family truck. Cass (Alexia Fast) is forced to spend the next eight years enduring threats and sexual abuse in a locked room. As she grows older, she uses the Internet to lure other children into a ring of abusers and pornographers led by her captor (Kevin Durand).

      Initially, we’re drawn into the drama by the earnest performance of Ryan Reynolds as Matthew, Cass’s blue-collar dad. Having left his child in his unlocked truck to run a brief errand, Matthew is haunted by her disappearance. His marriage to his wife (Mireille Enos) cracks under the strain. And the cop investigating the case (Scott Speedman) considers him a prime suspect.

      Eight years after the kidnapping, clues begin to surface that indicate Cass may still be alive. Matthew attempts to put pressure on the police while launching his own investigation.

      What ultimately emerges is a movie with a serious lack of focus. Egoyan can’t quite decide what kind of story he wants to tell. His plodding screenplay has all the familiar trappings of a TV-based police procedural with none of the brisk efficiency. At times, it feels as if you’re watching a stale episode of CSI underwater.

      If you’re hoping for a serious psychological examination of a sinister subject, you’re out of luck. With the exception of Reynolds and Enos, the acting ranges from uninterested to downright cartoonish. As the movie’s twisted villain, Kevin Durand wears a perpetual expression of pop-eyed anguish. You keep expecting him to cackle and drool.

      What’s the best I can say about Egoyan’s direction? With the film anchored by an intrusively pretentious score, there are brief moments when The Captive feels like a mousier version of Brian De Palma at his worst. Mostly, it’s just oppressively inept.