Movie Review By Heather Clisby
My roommate, Michelle, likes to come home with three movies at a time and usually, I've never heard of any of them. Often, there's a reason for that but occasionally, we find a quiet treasure that just never got a marketing campaign or press kit created in its honor.
For example, "Oxygen" is a crime thriller starring Adrian Brody as Harry, a sick mo-fo who is also frighteningly clever. He's kidnapped a rich man's wife in New York City and buried her alive, with about 24 hours of air left. For a million bucks (a very frugal demand these days) he'll tell wealthy hubby where she's buried but don't - whatever you do - call the cops. Right!
Meanwhile, we meet Detective Madeline Foster, played by Maura Tierney, as a troubled cop married to the captain. She's got a secret life doing dark, sexy things but we can't tell exactly what.
Well, of course the cops get involved and pretty soon we've got a criminal/cop face-to-face psychological mind game a la "Silence of the Lambs" complete with a time-is-running-out theme. This was a made-for-TV film in 1999 and it's a perfect example of how satisfying these movies can be if you take all the commercials out. Otherwise, how does a film build proper suspense when someone pitches a shiny new SUV to the audience every 15 minutes?
Brody is a gifted actor, a real chameleon. I saw him only a few days before as the lovesick soldier in "The Thin Red Line", all full of honor and romance but in "Oxygen" he's just downright creepy. Even his smile will make your skin crawl. Don't think Mr. Brody will be facing any typecasting problems real soon . . . .
Tierney is just as impressive here as the strong cop and faulty wife who is forced to look at herself when the slimy kidnapper sees in her a kindred spirit. To save the scared woman in the buried box, she must talk to Harry and listen to his observations of her. Meanwhile, the detective's husband, Tim (played by Terry Kinney,) is forced to watch it all through the two-way mirror. It gets ugly.
At the same time, we keep visiting the very dirty and very scared Frances, the woman in the box. She's been stripped down to her underwear and is afraid of the dark to begin with. Now she's nearing Bonkersville and you just gotta sympathize. I think we can all agree that it'd be a pretty nasty way to go and it's mentally wrenching to witness. Laila Robins spends much of her role screaming and crying but gives it all to the nightmare. She's crucial to the tense atmosphere.
In the end, "Oxygen" was worth the couch time. Films like this make the search for unknown gems in the video store more like a real sport.
© 2000 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 2/2/2000
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