Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fox and Namesake give us a curious existential thriller "Thr3e": a young man knows good and evil, but not his alter ego

The thriller “Thr3e” (or “Three” – note the title concept like “Se7en” or “Numbr3s”) catches my eye because the protagonist Kevin Parson (Marc Blucas), a seminary student, has taken on for himself “the knowledge of good and evil” as he writes his thesis. He impresses his professors with his photographic memory and seems like a Da Vinci Renaissance man, however marginally heterosexual.

But someone is stalking him and urging him to confess a horrible past sin. It seems he is a professional student, living off the life insurance of his parents after their death, and raised by an unstable aunt (Priscilla Barnes)(some family filial responsibility of the “Raising Helen” type there) who looks like she comes out of the world of Terry Gilliam. Actually, the movie is directed by Robby Henson and is based on a cleverly constructed thriller novel by Ted Dekker (site). It comes from Namesake Pictures and is released by 20th Century Fox (or was this Fox Faith?) It was filmed in Poland, 2.35:1.

The writing is that of a conventional thriller; it keeps Kevin in constant trouble, keeps us liking him (he looks a bit like Ashton Kutcher), and definitely has the beginning, middle, and a real ending with lots of double takes. Because the rest of the plot, behind the scenes at first, concerns a police psychologist Jennifer Peters (Justine Waddell) builds up the “Threes”: she has lost her brother, she thinks, to the Riddle Killer, who seems to be patterned after “Jigsaw” in the Lionsgate Saw movies: he leaves tape recordings describing horrible contraptions and moral riddles. The movie has flashbacks, seen through Kevin’s eyes, of the Riddler, who looks a bit like Jigsaw. Maybe the film is more of a ripoff than the book – but the film also has more structure and really asks some questions about “reality” and our control of it.

The third point of the plot triad is Kevin’s confession that he once locked a middle school bully in a basement to die, and naturally suspects that the Riddler could be him escaped. But then there is the platonic girl friend Samantha (oh, no, not another “Sami”) (Laura Jordan), another reference point that makes us wonder if the Riddler or the risen kid could be a split-off of Kevin’s apparently schizophrenic personality.

The end is a surprise, or maybe not, but it is as clever as in most movies of this type. But it’s the social and moral issues that grab our attention. Is there something wrong with becoming a bookworm and bypassing real life, inspiring the jealousy of others? Is there something wrong with drawing attention to oneself and becoming a mark for the anger of others? There are lines in the script about too much education (like in Army Basic). There are real riddles: what falls doesn’t break, and vice versa. And there is the concept (with more than one character) that what one writes in a book or thesis will create new reality. All that relates to me.

By the way, people use cell phones while driving in this movie. That’s critical to the plot. They won’t be welcome on Oprah. The script also mentions the Eisenhower years.

The movie website is here.

20th Century Fox Alred Newman fanfare is here.

Picture above: from the Eisenhower farm in Gettysburg, PA (mine); below, Gettysburg Visitor's Center.

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