This parking garage is no place to spend Christmas Eve

P2

on November 09, 2007 by Jay Antani
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In P2, which is set on a frigid Christmas Eve in a New York City parking garage, director Franck Khalfoun wastes no time getting his lead actress Rachel Nichols out of her stodgy winter coat and into a cleavage-baring cocktail dress. Nichols' Angela spends much of the movie in that slinky number, getting scraped, dirtied and drenched to the bone as she tries to outrun and outwit a predatory parking attendant played by Wes Bentley.


Overworked and exhausted from her gig in a Manhattan office building, Angela plans on spending Christmas with her family in Jersey. But her holiday is derailed when she finds herself trapped in the building's underground garage. The hour is late and the building deserted save for the presence of Thomas, a so-friendly-he's-creepy parking attendant holding vigil in his tiny office, singing along to Elvis records. Following genre lines, Thomas has been "stalking" Angela for some time with his army of security cameras, his obsession reaching full boil on Christmas Eve when the stranded Angela finds herself tied up in Thomas' office, where he has not only cooked a turkey dinner but foisted her into the above-mentioned clothing.


P2 works best during its set-up as the unsuspecting Angela's avenues of exit are cut off one by one. The psychodrama between Thomas and Rachel, however, is strictly old hat, as he engages in a perverse getting-to-know-you rapport, none of it particularly fresh or interesting as kidnapper-victim dynamics go. Angela becomes increasingly distraught and traumatized, especially after witnessing Thomas use one of her co-workers (a man who'd once made advances on her) first as a piñata and then a crash-test dummy.


The thriller switches into cat-and-mouse gear after Angela escapes Thomas' clutches and scurries from one darkened level of the garage to another, trying in vain to contact the police. To their credit, Khalfoun and his co-writers make maximum use of their labyrinthine setting as we shunt from the garage's darkest corners into elevators, underneath cars and inside offices. The garage also becomes the giddy maze-like venue for car chases, smash- ‘em-ups and incinerations.


As the narcissistic sociopath Thomas, Bentley admirably conjures an odious and insufferable villain. Likewise, Nichols ably takes on her physically demanding role and runs P2's paces at full emotional steam. If only the script kept pace with her energies and Khalfoun had tightened a repetitive and belabored third act, his thriller may have deserved more than passing consideration. As it is, P2 is a strictly middle-of-the-road entry in the slasher genre, scoring points for performances and areas of execution but running out of creative juice far too early, settling for stock chills and thrills.


Distributor: Summit
Cast: Rachel Nichols, Wes Bentley, Simon Reynolds, Grace Lynn Kung and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Screenwriters: Alexandre Aja, Franck Khalfoun and Grégory Levasseur
Producers: Alexandre Aja, Erik Feig, Grégory Levasseur and Patrick Wachsberger
Genre: Thriller
Rating: R for strong violence/gore, terror and language
Running time: 98 min.
Release date: November 9, 2007

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1 Comment

  • drshi on 25 September 2010

    Highly recommended; but elitists need not apply.
    (1) Apparently, the Boxoffice reviewer does not know the difference between a cocktail dress and an undergarment (slip). (2) I agree with his assessment of the performances. As a former professional actor and Casting Coordinator for NBC New York, there is not the slightest doubt that the acting in this movie is superlative throughout its entire cast, and Ms Nochols is worthy of special honors in this regard. To sufficiently balance extreme swings between hysteria and rage in order to avoid a complete breakdown is no small task, indeed; and she does an admirable job of it.

    I applaud Antani for, to at least some degree, appraising "P2" on the basis of its intent and not comparing it unjustly to motion pictures whose goals have been far more lofty. "P2" is a B movie whose goal is nothing more than B+ status, and where I disagree with him is that I feel it achieves that goal with flying colors.

    By and large, horror movies are meant to give one's adrenal glands a good workout, and nothing more. To compare them all to "Silence of the Lambs" is elitist snobbery. "P2" deserves credit for elevating this genre formula movie with a raft of original devices never before employed by its predecessors, not the least among which are an elevator-turned-water-tank and a flashback-type video recorded while the protagonist was unconscious, with just enough of it disclosed to indicate that carnal assault had occurred before her awakening.

    Also commendable are things that are notably absent, such as the host of cheap red herrings usually peppered throughout such fare (you know, the coming-out-of-nowhere hand on the shoulder that proves to be just a most inconsiderate comrade, or the inconceivable walking-backward-in-darkness that invariably ends with a heart-attack-type collision with something moronically benign).

    I also disagree with the notion that P2 runs out of good ideas near the end. Rather, I applaud it for having so many good ideas, period. Antani expresses disappointment that its creators could not continue to top themselves for the full 98 minutes. I guess he would have been happier if they had wrapped it all up in an hour instead of being hogtied into the 90-minute minimum for a feature.

    I only just now saw this flick on Premium TV, and almost passed it by because it was given just 1-1/2 stars; but fortunately I came in right at the beginning -- when the heroine still looked foxy -- and gradually became hooked by its extraordinarily realistic ambiance, minimal oxymorons (e.g. a fire-ax box but no fire alarm; no burglar alarm in car-rental office), and its gripping performances. If you want to read a more realistic review of this movie, go to RogerEbert.com

What do you think?