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A Double Feature 

A child-abduction thriller starring Kevin Bacon and Charlize Theron, Trapped has been all but abandoned by Columbia Pictures, what with David Westerfield having just been sentenced to death for the real-live abduction and murder of Danielle van Dam. But repeat after me, everybody: It's only a movie. And a darn good one, at that. Directed by Luis Mandoki, (Message in a Bottle), Trapped proves just how enjoyable an exploitation flick can be when all the elements magically come together.

"This is a machine that runs on fear," Bacon tells Theron after his cohorts have made off with her daughter, and it's the machine-like precision that makes Trapped so pleasurable early on. He's done this before -- kidnapped a poor little rich kid and put the parents through 24 hours of face-to-face hell so that they barely have a chance to even think about calling the police. And we're supposed to believe he's pretty good at it, but one thing leads to another and, before you know it, Theron is holding a scalpel to Bacon's private parts. Trapped is about as plausible as every other Hollywood thriller that comes down the pipe, but it's made with a lot of conviction and verve.

Much of the verve comes from the camerawork, which keeps us as disoriented as the parents. And much of the conviction comes from the actors, who seem to be having a wonderful time pretending they're having a terrible time. A revenge fantasy that pushes all the familiar buttons, Trapped is nevertheless the real deal, a movie that grabs your attention and won't let go.

Directed by Louis Mandoki
Wide Release

Nobody knows quite what to do with Goldie Hawn these days. She used to be a great bubble-headed comedian, from Laugh-In to Private Benjamin, but time's swift arrow can wound a great bubble-headed comedian -- witness Lucille Ball -- turning her from a happy clown into a sad clown. With her generous curves, her golden tresses and her California complexion, Hawn has always looked wonderful. The thing is, she now looks wonderful "for her age," as magazine profilers insist on adding. And like the rest of us, she just keeps getting older. There's a huskiness in Hawn's voice now, and it's hard to be daffy and husky at the same time. There's also a tightness around the eyes, and it's hard to be tight and loose as a goose at the same time. In her mid-50s, Hawn is arguably as sexy as ever, just not as funny.

Unfortunately, The Banger Sisters asks her to be both. As Suzette, a rock groupie from the '60s who, like Austin Powers, is still stuck in them, Hawn packs herself into a variety of get-ups involving spandex and leather. She's also stuffed a couple of breast enhancers down her tops, which are supposed to indicate plastic surgery. The overall effect is less hippie chick than biker chick, but I'll be the first to admit that Hawn pulls it off. As a woman who's still handing out free love some three decades after Woodstock, she looks at once sexy and trashy, cheerful and pathetic. And it all might have made for one hell of a performance if writer-director Bob Dolman had come through with either the writing or the directing.

When she gets fired from her bartending job at L.A.'s Whiskey a Go-Go and needs some Instant Cash, Suzette turns to Susan Sarandon's Lavinia. Suzette hasn't seen "Vinnie" in years, although they have quite a history together, having balled just about every rock star they could get their hands on back in the day. But Vinnie has subsequently cleaned up her act, tending to her husband and two teen-age daughters in how-dry-I-am Phoenix. If Suzette, all these years later, is still a hothouse flower, Vinnie is wilting on the vine, but not for long. And I must admit, I was all but salivating at the prospect of these two actresses going at each other, the one up-front and laid-back, the other uptight and down beaten. Let it all hang out, sisters.

Alas, there's little to hang out, Dolman's connect-the-dots script being almost devoid of humor. Doesn't he realize that with a story like this, all the good stuff is supposed to be between the dots? Hawn gets laughs only when she cusses or talks crudely, which she does often, admittedly. "When he came, it was like someone in an electric chair," Suzette says about Geoffrey Rush's Harry, a suicidal writer she picked up on the way to Phoenix and then coaxed out of a writer's block. Rush is screamingly unfunny, whereas Sarandon, who's not much of a comedian, is quietly unfunny. The movie never explains why Vinnie changed or why Suzette didn't, but it's in stranding these two glorious actresses that Dolan has some real explaining to do.

The Banger Sisters
Starring Goldie Hawn, Susan Sarandon
Wide Release

click to enlarge Kidnapper Kevin Bacon reduces the degrees of separation between himself and victim Charlize Theron in Trapped.
  • Kidnapper Kevin Bacon reduces the degrees of separation between himself and victim Charlize Theron in Trapped.


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