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D: Suzi Ewing / 87m

Cast: Luke Evans, Kelly Reilly, Norma Dixit, Skye Lucia Degruttola, Olivia Chenery, Jason Maza, Stacy Hall

Cathy Noland (Reilly) owns a florist shop in a small town, and seems happy being on her own. What she doesn’t know is that Lewis (Evans) has been watching her for months, learning everything he can about her, and tracking her daily routines. When she leaves a yoga class at the end of the day, Lewis grabs her in the parking lot and quickly ties her up and gags her before putting her in the boot of his car. He takes her to his home where he puts her in a soundproofed, hidden room. It soon becomes clear that Lewis has some questions for Cathy, and they may have something to do with a medical malpractice trial that he’s following on television. Cathy tries to escape, but isn’t successful, and as time passes, Lewis presses her to tell the truth about herself (starting with her name) and how it all relates to his wife, Alana (Chenery), and how she recently died. When Lewis finally learns the truth, it isn’t what he’s expecting, and he’s caught off guard when Cathy makes her next attempt at escaping…

The kind of mystery thrller that comes and goes without anyone really noticing it, 10×10 starts off well, but then stumbles repeatedly on its way to a violent showdown between Evans’ angry kidnapper and Reilly’s resourceful captive. Again, as with a lot of mystery thrillers, there’s the germ of a good idea here, but Noel Clarke’s screenplay (he also produces, and cameos as a waiter in a diner) is unable to connect the narrative dots in such a way that the movie forms into a cohesive whole. The script also tries to subvert audience expectations by throwing in a couple of “unexpected” twists along the way, and though these attempts are laudable in and of themselves, they don’t carry any weight or have any dramatic impact. Instead of being surprised, or even shocked, the average viewer’s reaction is likely to be a shrug of indifference. Part of the problem is the movie’s unfortunate habit of presenting scenes that act independently from the ones that precede and follow them, or which fail to increase the tension. One such scene involves Lewis driving to a favourite spot he and Alana went to. A squad car pulls up, and for a moment it looks as if Lewis is going to be in trouble. Only for a moment, though…

With scenes such as these being resolved too quickly, all that remains is for the cat and mouse game between Lewis and Cathy to hold the attention and provide all the thrills (the violent assaults that pepper the narrative soon become derivative and perfunctory in the way they’re staged and play out). Alas, once Cathy is kidnapped, any tension soon dissipates as the script’s awkward machinations are further undermined by first-time director Ewing’s unoriginal handling. Between the house’s open plan living area and the hidden room is a corridor; the number of times Lewis and Cathy run down it in either direction is about the only scary thing the viewer can rely on. In the end, and despite Evans’ and Reilly’s best efforts, the movie loses its way completely and becomes yet another generic thriller that is so generic it even includes a scene where the villain of the piece is supposedly dead – only to be miraculously resurrected the very next minute. When a movie resorts to such crude tactics in order to raise some excitement, then you know it’s been in trouble for some time already.

Rating: 3/10 – a woeful movie that is almost wholly free of subtext or metaphor, 10×10‘s main achievement is that it was made in the first place and induced both Evans and Reilly to take part; almost an object lesson in how not to create a tense, exciting thriller, this is one to avoid in favour of almost anything else.

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