On DVD: Tortured - No Jack Bauer, Just a Tepid Potboiler

I often lament the recent tendency among movie studios of not only shunting good movies directly to video, but of taking over the racket previously left to the independents and smaller distribution companies. The idea that studios are moving away from the big screen and focusing on the small one doesn't sit well with a guy like me who feels most comfortable in a dark theater staring at a 30-foot screen. That said, sometimes a direct-to-video movie really does belong there. When the movie is not so bad that it should be banished to oblivion, and should go unseen by anyone, but at the same time it would make you feel robbed to drop $8 for a ticket to see it in the theater. Such is the case with Tortured.

There's just nothing very special about this film. In fact, you've seen most of it before. It's the story of an FBI agent (Cole Hauser, playing the cleverly named Agent Cole) who has gone undercover to infiltrate the world's largest criminal organization, run by the mysterious master of disguise, Ziggy. But once Cole's hazing and initiation are over, he's handed an assignment that might be too much for him: the interrogation and torture of Ziggy's lead accountant (played wonderfully by Laurence Fishburne, stepping away from his recent trend of playing tough-guy badasses), who may or may not have stolen $20 million. And if that weren't enough pressure, Cole's dad (James Cromwell) is the director of the FBI and wants to pull him out -- and he might know more than he's letting on.

What follows is a fairly tepid potboiler that never gets interesting enough to get me thoroughly involved in its twists and turns. To make matters worse, there's an entirely over-dramatized relationship problem as Cole must fight to keep his girlfriend from leaving him, despite him giving her no reason to leave other than his inability to talk about work. It is standard, made-for-TV movie fare, elevated to the point of watchability only by the talent involved. Watching Hauser and Fishburne play off of each other as torturer and prisoner is worth watching, but as they aren't given anything really fascinating to play around with, it isn't something worth writing home about.

The one thing the film has going for it is that despite the sheer predictability of the twists, they do a solid enough job concealing who is exactly betraying whom, so there is a bit of surprise to the thing.

But it comes as no surprise that there aren't many features to go with this, not that I'm thoroughly depressed about that fact. There's your standard overly enthusiastic making-of, talking about how great the movie is going to be and what a pleasure it is to work with such great talent, etc.

The bottom line is that this movie should be passed on by ever Fishburne/Hauser completists.

Tortured is available starting today from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.