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.
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
Rating: R for strong violence/gore, terror and language
Running time: 98 min.
Release date: November 9, 2007