P2 Franck Khalfoun

P2 Franck Khalfoun
As a driven, pants-wearing, single career woman — and so number two (after oversexed teenagers) on the psycho killer to-do list — Angie (Rachel Nichols) should of course know better than to descend alone into her office tower’s deserted parking garage after working late on Christmas eve. But distracted, or maybe just culturally illiterate, down she goes, and so cue a night of violently misogynistic cat-and-mouse, like a Seinfeld episode gone badly sideways, in Franck Khalfoun’s debut feature P2. Co-written by Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension, The Hills Have Eyes), P2 seems to have the pedigree, and most certainly the desire, to be lumped in with the nouveau "splat pack.” But, except for a shockingly icky car crash scene and a wanton act of Rottweiler-cide, P2 has nothing like the violence of a Hostel, nor anywhere near the plot twistiness of a Saw or even a Captivity, so those seeking some quick and dirty torture porn will be unsatisfied. Because the villain (Wes Bentley’s security guard) is made known to us so early, and because his psychology — lonely/needy, plus erotomaniacal, plus bat shit crazy — is so transparently parsable, P2 lacks both the Jungian kick of the unknown bogeyman and the frisson of a big third act reveal. And Bentley, so memorably skeevy in his American Beauty debut and so thoroughly forgettable in everything else since, is oddly toothless here, even mixing in a counterproductively goofy edge in the name (one presumes) of "rounded characterisation.” Angie’s arc, from trembling victim to plucky survivor with hidden depth, is predictable on every level, and the plot points — balky cell phone, 911 call gone awry, insufficiently inquisitive local cops — are insultingly trite. So there’s little to recommend here, though honour requires mention of Nichols’s performance. Wan, willowy and Canadian (well, from Maine, but allow me my dreams), Nichols is always compelling and believable, playing a couple of notches above what the movie calls for, or deserves. The script contrives to keep her scantily clad and (improbably) soaking wet for much of its length, so those enthusiasts who know her only as an auxiliary ass-kicker on the latter-day Alias will be happy to see the several new sides of her on display here. Extras include two fairly duplicative "making of” featurettes and a biographical piece on director Khalfoun. As he is the kind of middle-aged man who sports an oversized basketball jersey, a bunch of jewellery and a sideways baseball cap, this is at least one extra too many. (Seville)