‘The Entitled’ Thrills Us with Fighting Fathers, Fleeing Progeny and Psychotic Pursuers

[21 September 2011]

By Christel Loar

PopMatters Associate Music Editor

The Entitled is a suspenseful thriller from writer William Morrissey (Shattered) and director Aaron Woodley (Rhinoceros Eyes), that perhaps flies a bit too under the radar. It’s unfortunate that well-written, perfectly-paced pieces like this don’t get more attention.

The film centers on Paul Dynan (Kevin Zegers, Frozen) a bike messenger working through college while trying to his sick mother, who can’t afford her medications and is on the verge of losing her house. Paul concocts a plan to kidnap three rich students, Nick, Hailey and Jeff (Dustin Milligan, Laura Vandervoort, John Bregar) who are on their way to a family weekend retreat, and force their millionaire dads to each pay a ransom. 

In a sub-plot, he has also rigged a bomb at the house where the fathers are staying, as insurance against being traced. Unfortunately,  Paul’s partners-in-crime, Dean and Jenna (played by Devon Bostick and Tatiana Maslany), would rather punish the rich kids and revel in mayhem and violence, than play it safe and take the payday. Jenna, particularly, takes perverse delight in torture, revealing the bomb to her terrified victims.

This initially seems like a standard kidnap-scheme-gone-wrong, but The Entitled isn’t as simple as that. Sure, things start to fall apart when Dean and Jenna begin straying from Paul’s non-violent plan and torturing the hostages, but there’s another set of suspenseful circumstances unfolding with the fathers as they await instructions on how to ensure the safe return of their children.

Ray Liotta, Stephen McHattie, and Victor Garber play the wealthy fathers, old friends who are getting together for a boy’s night as part of the aforementioned retreat.Garber’s character is late in arriving, and so he isn’t there when the others first receive the call that their kids have been kidnapped. When he does finally appear, the other two withhold the truth of the situation from him for far too long. Eventually, of course, it comes out, as do all the secrets, suspicions, and accusations. 

The intensity between these three formidable actors is heightened by the fact that all of their drama essentially occurs in one room as they wait for Paul’s next call. The drama escalates further when it is revealed that one of them is broke and can’t pay his share of the ransom, and the others begin to suspect that he may have orchestrated the entire scheme to bail himself out. Everyone begins pointing fingers and they all start to think it’s an inside job, but it’s unclear where the connections may lie. 

Meanwhile, Paul’s plan has spiraled out of control as Dean and Jenna resort to violence, their captives escape and the chase begins. Paul finally receives the money transfer and attempts to call off Dean and Jenna, who are now in rabid-dog pursuit of their quarry, and the kids are running headlong into the woods in an attempt to reach their fathers before the bomb detonates. It’s very tense stuff, but it done in such a way that nothing seems to be for shock value alone. Every single shot, every turn of plot, propels the story, which becomes increasingly compelling as it continues to reveal itself.

With three inter-locking, highly emotional situations occurring simultaneously—the fighting fathers, the fleeing progeny, and the psychotic pursuers—Paul tends to take a bit of the backseat as a character, but he’s still the center, calculatedly controlling each eruption of chaos like a remote puppeteer.  Zegers’ portrayal gives just enough emotional weight to keep Paul sympathetic while displaying his obvious intelligence, which, along with a very believable crime caper storyline and a delicious twist, is what makes The Entitled such a satisfying and suspenseful thriller.

The Entitled bonus features include a behind-the-scenes featurette and an tantalizingly subtle alternate ending.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/148548-the-entitled/