(2010)1.5Alaina O'ConnorWriter/director Mark Young must have watched a bunch of thrillers, picked out the most frequently used story conventions, watered them down, and thrown them into his latest film, The Killing Jar, a slow, drawn-out hostage drama void of the tension necessary to give a thriller its requisite thrills. With one-dimensional characters and clichéd dialogue in between static shots of dripping faucets, ticking clocks, and squishy body parts, this insufferable thriller (if you can even call it that) adds nothing new to the genre and leaves the audience wondering why they started watching the movie in the first place.
The story starts with a group of late-night patrons hanging out at a remote roadside diner killing time: waitress Noreen, played by doe-eyed B-movie darling Amber Benson; Deputy Lonnie (Lew Temple); diner regular Hank (Kevin Gage); Jimmy the cook (Danny Trejo); and cheery salesman Dixon, played by Harold Perrineau. Having heard about a family's murder in nearby Union County, the sudden arrival of a mysterious man in black, Doe (Michael Madsen), arouses their suspicions and leads everyone to suspect the ill-tempered stranger. This leads to a deadly hostage situation by a trigger-happy ex-military interrogator who's completely unhinged.
Young doesn't give you a reason to care whether the characters live or die, as his attempt at character development is overshadowed by small-town stereotypes and stilted dialogue. Madsen does what Madsen does best in his attempt at playing a psycho killer indifferent to everything around him, including his part in this film. He mindlessly torturers people for no apparent reason, and between teary-eyed reaction shots from Benson and pathetic mumblings from Perrineau (whose talent is grossly misused here), the film has no pulse. A small upside to The Killing Jar is an entertaining cameo by Jake Busey as Mr. Greene, a land developer who pals around with loan sharks. His presence perks up the film for a bit, but isn't enough to save it from the doldrums.