by Daniel Saney, Deputy Editor, Friday, June 16 2006, 16:10 BST|
Hayley is an intelligent 14-year-old girl, Jeff is a photographer in his early thirties. When the pair strike up a relationship on an Internet chatroom, Hayley suggests they meet up in a cafe. Hitting it off there, she prompts him to take her back to his place where they have a couple of cocktails, have a quick photo session and before Jeff knows it he's waking up strapped down to a chair and being asked questions about another girl who'd gone missing from his favourite coffee shop. When Jeff proves uncooperative, Hayley, armed with some medical books, a scalpel and an ice bag, shows that she has ways of making him talk.
A tense indie thriller, Hard Candy thrives on some very rich characterisation from its writer, playwright Brian Nelson, and the stunning way in which they are brought to life. With the bulk of the film setting its focus on just two characters in a claustrophobic house, the characters are masterfully created and developed. The two leads bring Nelson's creations to life perfectly. Wilson does well with Jeff, the increasingly frightened supposed paedophile, whilst Ellen Page can't be praised enough for her role as Hayley. She is dealt the whole range of emotions, beginning as a nervous, flirty schoolgirl to determined vigilante, and pulls the transition off excellently.
The torture/preventive surgery scenes are sure to have the audience squirming in their seats though rather than the likes of Saw or Hostel, the horrific action is predominantly done off-screen. Although there's a good plot reason for this, director Slade is able to make it all the more effective through sound effects, Jeff's pained expressions and Hayley's deadpan witty lines.
Due to its subject matter - internet grooming and paedophilia in general - Hard Candy is sure to get people talking. It sees the acting out of the just form of vengeance which naturally appears in many people's heads when faced with paedophiles, but the fact that we are never 100% clear about Jeff's guilt, the film invites audiences to decide how justifiable Hayley's actions are.
One minor grumble is that the ending, interesting as it may be, is almost an anticlimax after the wonderful tension and excitement that precedes it, but overall, Hard Candy is a well-crafted, well-performed thriller, well worth a watch.
Rating: 4 out of 5