NPR logo 'Stolen': Dark, Yet Prim And Proper

'Stolen': Dark, Yet Prim And Proper

Missing Link: In Stolen, Josh Lucas stars as Matthew Wakefield, a tormented father haunted by guilt after his son is kidnapped. Jessica Brooks/IFC hide caption

toggle caption Jessica Brooks/IFC

Missing Link: In Stolen, Josh Lucas stars as Matthew Wakefield, a tormented father haunted by guilt after his son is kidnapped.

Jessica Brooks/IFC

Stolen

  • Director: Anders Anderson
  • Genre: Drama
  • Running Time: 92 minutes
Rated: R for a scene of sexuality

With: Jon Hamm, Josh Lucas, Jimmy Bennett, Morena Baccarin, Jessica Chastain

'My Son Is Dead'

'Boy In A Box'

Mad Men's Jon Hamm and Dawson's Creek's James Van Der Beek attempt big-screen moves in Stolen, a mystery that follows two parallel stories to a single glib conclusion. But this serial-killer flick (in limited release, but available via video-on-demand) remains steadfastly small-time.

The movie was once titled The Boy in the Box, and the action begins when the crated, mummified corpse of a child is unearthed at a construction site. Local police detective Thomas Adkins (Hamm) is the logical man to call, especially since his young son, Tommy, has been missing for eight years.

The forensic pathologist in this tiny Western town — too little for a McDonald's, but big enough for its own pathologist — determines that the victim is not Tommy. This boy has been dead for some 50 years.

That cues a second tale, set in 1958. Matthew Wakefield (Josh Lucas) loses his house to foreclosure and his wife to suicide. He takes his three sons to live with his wife's sister and her husband. (The boys are named, gospel truth, Mark, Luke and John.) The brother-in-law won't accept Matthew's youngest, whom some call a "retard."

So Matthew and John (Jimmy Bennett) set out on their own, and Dad gets a construction job. Life seems to be improving, but then John vanishes. The suspects are limited: If the kidnapper is someone already introduced, it must be one of Matthew's co-workers or the gas-station owner who's (rightfully) jealous of Matthew's interest in his stunning wife (Morena Baccarin).

Morena Baccarin plays Rose Montgomery, Josh Lucas' love interest and the woman he's with when his son is kidnapped. Jessica Brooks/IFC hide caption

toggle caption Jessica Brooks/IFC

Morena Baccarin plays Rose Montgomery, Josh Lucas' love interest and the woman he's with when his son is kidnapped.

Jessica Brooks/IFC

The distraught father's new drinking buddy, who goes by the nickname "Diploma" (Van Der Beek), helps Matthew search for John. But no one else seems particularly interested in looking for the boy — until Thomas reopens the case 50 years later. The stolid but tormented cop becomes obsessed with solving both disappearances, even though his own stunning wife (Rhona Mitra) says it's time for him to move on.

Directed by first-timer Anders Anderson, Stolen is a dark saga set on the fringes of society, yet it couldn't have less film noir atmosphere. Everyone is just too pretty, and most of the characters are as sweet and simple as John, a child whose only apparent disability is being, well, childlike.

Little attention is paid to period details like language, clothing or hair: Matthew's boys live in the late 1950s, but have shaggy, early-'70s manes. Indeed, their haircuts are almost the only unruly things in this facile movie. Stolen is a tale of random violence that's as prim as the vision of America peddled 50 years ago by Madison Avenue.

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