Captured (1998): Character Car-nage

Matty buckles up for a dramatic thrill ride.

Holden Downs (Nick Mancuso) is a tightly wound property developer having a stinker of a day. Not only are the environmental protests against his latest multi-million dollar development causing costly delays, but his snazzy silver Porsche has attracted the attention of a pair of sibling car thieves. Interrupting the younger brother, Joey (Michael Mahonen), mid twock, the bad tempered Downs flips and beats the bejesus out of him, breaking the lad’s arm with a tyre iron. Thankfully — well, for Joey at least — big bro Robert (Andrew Divoff) swoops in, momentarily incapacitating Downs and vowing revenge — a promise that’ll come to have dire consequences for both him and the actually deeply psychotic land magnate.

Imagine Cujo (1983) — but instead of Dee Wallace and her ailing son being menaced by a rabid St. Bernard, it’s some unsuspecting sod at the mercy of D-Fens from Falling Down (1993)


And it’s every bit as brilliant as such a scenario sounds.

A difficult film to discuss without giving away the surprises of its plot, the thrust of Captured involves the intricate game of cat n’ mouse that ensues when Downs traps Robert inside his garage-bound motor, which he kits out with bulletproof windows, automatic locks, and remote controlled electronics. Powered by sharply written dialogue and memorable character tics, Downs and Robert engage in a tense war of words, each trying to best the other until their confrontation turns frighteningly physical in a wince-inducing sequence involving fingers and a bolt cutter. All the while, Robert  — who, in Captured’s neatest touch, we quickly begin rooting for, even in the face of some truly questionable behaviour — continually tries to escape.

At its core, Captured is about the dichotomy between two alien yet eerily similar personalities and lifestyles: the fiery Downs, with his wealth, plush mansion homestead, and artist wife (Linda Hoffman, delivering a sort of riposte to her more waspish trophy spouse part in The Dentist (1996) — a film that, like Captured, was also produced by Pierre David [1]); and the disgruntled Robert, living hand to mouth in a grim-looking ‘burb with Joey. Uniting them is the crippling sense that they’re both unhappy with their lot and are primed to explode, their anger fuelled by how they’re perceived by society at large. Admittedly, it’s a mite pat on occasion in terms of delivery (there’s a second where you almost expect one of them to utter the ol’ “we’re not so different, you and I” cliché), but it makes for robust dramatic footing, especially when it becomes clear that Robert is really only railing against the kind of greedy, capitalist blowhards that’ve tried to keep him in the gutter in the first place. 

Economically orchestrated by co-scripter/debuting director Peter Liapis, the Ghoulies (1984) star-cum-helmer twists the suspense screws with authority and keeps focused on his strongest assets: Mancuso and Divoff. They’re superb sparring partners and their marvellous performances are exhilarating — even if you can always catch the scene-chewing Mancuso acting. Interestingly, Liapis’ fellow DTV practitioner Doug Campbell (The Tomorrow Man (2000/02), Stalked By My Doctor (2015), and the David-produced Cupid (1997) and The Perfect Tenant (2000)) receives a “creative consultant” credit; a billing that generally denotes a fair bit of artistic input. 

Captured hit U.K. VHS in spring 1999 via First Independent, and landed on U.S. video and DVD a few months later, on 29th June, via Avalanche. Weirdly, Avalanche elected to market the film as your standard, run of the mill evil car flick, rather than the gripping, consummately done thriller it is.

USA ● 1998 ● Thriller ● 91mins

Nick Mancuso, Andrew Divoff, Linda Hoffman ● Dir. Peter Liapis ● Wri. Peter Liapis and Richard Gilbert-Hill, story by Peter Liapis 

[1] Captured and The Dentist would be a great double feature, given their shared ‘crackpot professional’ concepts and narrative structure. The keen eyed will also notice that their antagonists brandish the exact same Walther PPK pistol, too.

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