Thursday, February 22, 2018

Ben Parker's THE CHAMBER: Confined-space melodrama opens in theaters and digitally

The first alert that something may be amiss about THE CHAMBER -- a somewhat new (made in 2016) confined-space movie from writer/director Ben Parker -- is the fact that the "scientists," or maybe "military" folk who come aboard the mini-submarine (that rather thoroughly confines everyone's space) refuse to tell the sub's captain, who appears to be the movie's hero, why they are there or what they are searching for. This is suspect to and for the captain but also to and for the very believability of the movie's plot.

You will either accept this "fact" or not, but to keep watching, you'll need to pretty completely suspend what they used to call your "disbelief." (Though, in the age of Trump, could there possibly be much disbelief left to suspend?) Mr. Parker, shown at right, does an adequate job in the directorial department but a quite below-average one as a writer. On the plus side is his ability to keep us guessing as to who is good and who isn't and why. But by the time we find out, his plot, motivations and all else seems so jumbled as to make his would-be confined-space thriller/melodrama not so much about "who will survive?" as it is about "who cares?".

One reason I decided to give this movie a spin is its star: Johannes Kuhnke (above), who was so fine as the lead in that near-avalanche/family film Force Majeure. He is certainly OK here, but the role is limited to mostly silly plot machinations involving nuclear naughtiness and, yes, North Korea and the U.S., with Charlotte Salt (below), playing the head of the antagonist group. (Given its 2016 provenance, the film is timely, at least.)

As The Chamber takes place under the sea, you needn't place any bets on whether or not the water will soon rise around its protagonists/antagonists. But as the characters keep doing dumb things and are allowed to continue this for far too long, your patience may run out before the movie does.

Granted the situation here is grim, but did Mr. Parker need to make his characters so alternately dumb and crazy? The craziest is played (and well enough, certainly) by James McArdle, below, and the sweetest by Elliot Levey, above. But the nonsense piles up in the last half-hour to the point that it grows so silly that it very nearly becomes fun. Almost. Dumb and tiresome finally win out.

Really, now: You increase your passenger list by two people, yet you don't bother to include two more survival suits? The ending is such that I asked myself why in hell I bothered to sit through all this. Oh, right: It was Mr. Kuhnke's fault.

From Cinedigm and running too long, even at only 90 minutes, The Chamber opens tomorrow, Friday, February 23, in a few theaters and on digital streaming. Your move....

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