Hurt (Barbara Stepansky, 2009)
I will start this review off on a positive note, since it is likely the only positive thing I will say until I have finished this review: I liked William Mapother (The Bedroom) better here than I ever have. Mapother, a cousin of Tom Cruise, is one of the reheaded-stepchild brigade of famous-guy relatives (think Clint Howard and Joe Estevez here, among others) who often get roped into crappy movies as name stars. Mapother has always struck me as the most talented of the bunch, though he rarely has both a role with enough meat on it and a script with enough bones to allow that talent to come out. He gets the former here, and enough of the latter—Mapother’s role, as socially-challenged Darryl Coltrane, the reclusive king of an auto graveyard who offers to take in his recently-deceased brother’s family while they get his estate in order—is the male lead here, and he gives it far more TLC, and gravity, than it deserves, having ended up in this ridiculous mess of a movie that may even be too predictable for a Lifetime Movie Channel thriller. (Actually, for all I know, it is and I missed that bit.)
Here’s the bits that matter: Coltrane’s sister-in-law Helen (Magnolia‘s Melora Walters), her son Conrad (Jackson Rathbone from the Twilight franchise), and her daughter Lenore (Easy A‘s Johanna E. Braddy) find themselves at a loss when Helen’s husband is killed in a car accident. Darryl offers them a place to stay, but then a lawyer pops up with a curveball: said dead husband was in the process of getting the paperwork through to foster a youngster by the name of Sarah Parsons (My Sister’s Keeper‘s Sofia Vassilieva). News to the entire family, and Helen is about to tell the lawyer to go soak his head, but she meets Sarah and takes a shine to the girl, so despite her better judgment—she’s barely able to provide for her own family until the estate is settled—she takes Sarah in. Cue the usual lots-of-teens-in-one-house tension, but there’s something else going on here. Creepy stuff starts happening, but is it Darryl—who is not all that great at masking the fact that he’s been carrying a torch for Helen for a lot of years—or Sarah, who may be even more of a social misfit than Darryl?
The movie’s ugly, glaring, eight-hundred-pound elephant of a weakness is all too obvious within the first five minutes of the movie: by that time, you will have probably figured out every twist in the tale, assuming you’ve seen any half-dozen random thrillers of this stripe. It doesn’t help that the much-superior Orphan was released the same year, and the two share more than a possibly-malevolent foster child. But one of the reasons Mapother stands out in this movie is that its cast, none of whom are normally slouches, all seem to be phoning it in. Much of this can probably be put down to the woeful script turned in by Alison Lea Bingeman, a longtime TV screenwriter turning in her first feature. It shows; this is far more an episode of a bad Lifetime TV series than it is a serviceable thriller. Skip it; you’re not missing anything save a good William Mapother performance, one I hope he duplicates in the future in a much more deserving film. *