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The term “psychological thriller” has gotten tossed around a lot this year, being attached to films ranging from those more aptly described as “torture porn” (Captivity) to those that really had nothing psychological about them at all (I Know Who Killed Me). So, when a movie like P2 comes along, scarcely advertised and, frankly, left to someone like me to review, expectations aren’t set very high. Surprisingly, P2 exceeds those low expectations and actually puts on an enjoyable, albeit flawed, show.
The concept for P2 is incredibly light. Rachel Nichols plays Angela, an overworked businesswoman who gets trapped in an underground parking garage on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately for Angela, the parking attendant on duty, Thomas (Wes Bentley), is quite psychotic and rather obsessed with her. In short order Thomas kidnaps Angela, leaving the remainder of the movie’s running time for Angela’s desperate attempts to escape.
So what sets P2 apart from other abduction “psychological thrillers” out there this year? Surprisingly, the script from director Franck Khalfoun and producer partners Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur , which cuts down on the expected gore factor and leaves time for the limited cast to actually build some characters, putting predator and prey face to face for a couple of lengthy scenes instead of just making the movie about Angela’s nonstop escape. Although there is some gore at times (and I think at this point Aja has taken down as many dogs in movies he’s worked on as Michael Vick), it’s not the sole focus of the picture.
The time left for performances isn’t wasted. Rachel Nichols already proved she could play a believable victim in the Amityville Horror remake and those skills are put to excellent use here. Her terror and desperation are almost tangible. Even better, however, is the psychotic performance of Bentley, who mostly avoids an over-the-top performance and portrays a character who obviously has spent too much time watching the world through cameras instead of interacting with people.
The downside of the movie comes in the story’s final act, when it looks like the writers couldn’t figure out what to do with the story they conceived and had to depart from the interesting characters they developed in order to reach a clichéd, somewhat satisfying ending. Suddenly Angela is a MacGuyver figure, all subtlety is gone from Thomas, and the visual effects artists take precedence over the actors.
It also might have been nice if the movie wasn’t titled P2 and given something a little more threatening as a title. It’s not that the title is bland, but anytime a character walks past a sign for the parking level (P2), you can’t help but think something terrible is going to happen. It gets annoying to the point that you wish more of the action would happen on the other levels of the movie’s parking garage.
P2 actually offers a satisfying show with some decent performances that make the movie a bit more compelling than previous genre entries this year. That’s actually pretty high praise for a film in a genre that is quickly getting worn out. It’s far from perfect, but at least P2 has a little bit of psychological thrill to it.