P2

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"P2" exploits all sorts of paranoia experienced by urban dwellers: Fears about cars that won't start in underground garages; office buildings that lock people inside after hours; cell phones that get no service when they're needed the most; 911 calls put on hold; and a security guard whose hero is Travis Bickle.

The fun all begins on Christmas Eve at level P2 of a downtown parking structure where Creepy Security Guard, aka Thomas (Wes Bentley, trading on his dark and brooding demeanor), stalks and imprisons the object of his obsession, a Beautiful Young Executive, aka Angela (Rachel Nichols).

In the sadism-for-thrills sweepstakes, "P2" is no "Saw," but it will get young women to clutch their dates for a week or so in theaters before fading to DVD shelves.

Director Franck Khalfoun and his co-writers, producer Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur, make no attempt to justify Creepy Security Guard's torment of Beautiful Young Executive. He's lonely and he's a psychopath. What more do you need?

Not much for actors to do here except let loose. Nichols starts out dressed in sleek corporate threads, then is reduced to a clinging slip that reveals every bloody scratch, bruise, gouge and, of course, her heaving bosom. She believably disintegrates when all her modern tools from car engine to cell phone fail her and she finds herself at the mercy of a nut. Then she regroups to beat him at his own sick game.

Bentley gets to stalk and sulk, lip sync to Elvis Presley -- apparently his character's other obsession -- and play with his killer guard dog. At heart though he's a romantic: After knocking his victim out, he removes most of her clothes for a Christmas Eve dinner in his underground guard booth, a feast with napkins, table clothes, candles and a nice bottle of wine. What a guy.

The locked parking lot is as much a trap for the filmmakers as it is for victim though. In this dull and static setting, they struggle to introduce action and novelty. Beautiful Young Executive takes refuge in an elevator, which Creepy Security Guard manages to flood from above. Suddenly the body of the building's security guard bobs up in the water. Where the hell did that come from? He unleashes his vicious guard dog but she manages to kill it. She steals a car and the two play chase and destruction derby.

The piece de resistance is Creepy Security Guard's torture slaying of an office lothario who once sexually harassed Beautiful Young Executive. By the time he is through with it, the body pretty much resembles road kill.

Production values for this Toronto shoot are what you'd expect when filmmakers set out to make a minimalist and unimaginative horror thriller. Khalfoun and his crew keep things simple in the drab location with a few actors, modest costumes, key props and straight-forward lensing.

P2
Summit Entertainment
An Aja/Levasseur production
Credits:
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Screenwriters: Alexandra Aja, Franck Khalfoun, Gregory Levasseur
Producer: Alexandre Aja, Patrick Wachsberger, Erik Feig
Executive producers: David Garrett, Alix Taylor
Director of photography: Maxime Alexandre
Production designer: Oleg Savytski
Music: tomandandy
Costume designer: Ruth Secord
Editor: Patrick McMahon
Cast:
Angela Bridges: Rachel Nichols
Thomas: Wes Bentley
Running time -- 98 minutes
MPAA rating: R
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