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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 28.89%
Just Average: 12.22%
Pretty Crappy: 13.89%
Sucks: 14.44%

12 reviews, 108 user ratings

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Hard Candy
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by Jay Seaver

"Two strong performances can take a two-person movie far."
4 stars

"Hard Candy" lets the folks in the audience know from the start that it intends to make them uncomfortable. It's all of five minutes into the movie before we see that young Hayley Stark is about a decade younger than what the guy she's meeting should be looking at. By the time the film is over, it will be what people do rather than what they threaten to do that makes people uncomfortable, and not the way that the first scene suggests.

Hayley (Ellen Page) met Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson) online. He's handsome and charming, and probably more than twice her age (she could still be in junior high). They meet face-to-face for the first time at a local diner. He invites her back to his place for a drink and a look at his photography studio; she's cautious, but goes anyway. Arriving there, she sees that all of the pictures on the wall are young girls, but she turns out to be a step ahead of him - it's Jeff who has something he didn't plan on in his drink, and regains consciousness to find himself in a situation he's not ready for.

Brian Nelson's script is the sort of thing actors salivate over: It's built around a pair of good roles, each with lines a good actor can do a lot with. Both characters have dark sides, so nobody is stuck playing the victim for very long. And though the set-up is mostly two people in a small space verbally sparring, it's not just two actors shooting words at each other while the director tries to make things visually exciting with camera tricks: There's stuff to do, though for the most part it's not so strenuous or dangerous that the audience will be more impressed with the stuntmen than the cast. The audience will generally appreciate this, too, although they might be a little less overjoyed with how the dialogue is perhaps a bit too writerly.

It's mainly Ellen Page who has to deal with most of that; ever since Joss Whedon did great things with the Buffy TV series, a lot of writers have tended to err more on the side of making teens talk the way the writer wishes he or she had in high school, rather than how teenagers actually talk, and that's the case here. A dry comment about how this is what they should have badges for in Girl Scouts is kind of funny but also takes away from her being a believable kid, as does a lecture she delivers about treating kids like they're adults. She's supposed to be smart for her age, but sometimes Page has to kind of shift gears to get into that mode. She plays Hayley as a little overconfident, because as smart as she is, she can't anticipate everything or keep an adult man under control indefinitely. She's a nightmare teen, able to use her looks and brains to manipulate men, but she'd most interesting when she's overestimating her abilities, rather than acting like an all-but-supernatural avenger.

Patrick Wilson's part isn't as showy, since there's no sudden reveal that he's more than he appears, but he's just as essential to the film's success as Page. His job is to make the audience wonder just how egregious Jeff's activities have been - he's practiced enough that Hayley's obviously not the first young girl he's charmed, but he also seems cautious enough that we can't quite assume violence in his past. And after Hayley gets the upper hand, it's interesting to watch Wilson quickly alternate between being somewhat sympathetic - he's a creep, but that doesn't make him being the target of this sort of vigilantism okay - and being ready to explode with rage.

Director David Slade and his crew put together a very nice movie on what's probably a fairly low budget. Having two excellent performances helps immensely; a director who trusts his cast can keep turning the screws until the audience is ready to snap, because he sure that they'll hold the audience's interest. Perhaps the most important thing for Slade and company to do is to keep the film from feeling too much like a play, which is a constant threat with the small cast and (mostly) single location. Rather than using a hyperactive moving camera, he uses the framing to keep things interesting. It's unusual, for instance, to use such a widescreen picture indoors; the effect is to make the picture vertically claustrophobic while still giving his characters room to move around and show the expensive emptiness of the house. The film is intense - I'm told there were folks retreating or passing out at Sundance - although someone who saw it there mentioned there were scenes missing in the U.S. release. That may have been wise; making a couple scenes more graphic could be the difference between a tense thriller and tacky exploitation.

Fortunately, it comes down on the "tense thriller" side. It may still be a little much for some, but overall it's just right.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11287&reviewer=371
originally posted: 06/02/06 08:45:42
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2006 Florida Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/01/21 Louise (the real one) Agree w/Orndorf. Lacks tension & rather stupid in the end. Page character not convincing. 2 stars
10/05/18 morris campbell intense & disturbing 4 stars
8/24/15 David Hollingsworth An intense, and squirm-inducing modern classic. 5 stars
4/09/15 stanley welles compelling, well-written and admirably performed 4 stars
4/15/14 Charles Tatum Page doesn't quite ring true. 4 stars
12/04/12 Mason Very Very original! direction is superb and original plot 4 stars
10/16/12 Jacqui Intelligent, thought provoking, rivetting. Ellen Page is amazing. 5 stars
8/25/12 Faraz hard movie to watch 4 stars
8/15/12 Robin Utterly grim and pointless. We get it, pedophiles are bad people. See 'Freeway' instead. 2 stars
6/08/12 liker of good movies Wothless 1 stars
11/09/11 matthew thompson dalldorf Don't forget AUDITION! 1 stars
11/09/11 Thompson ...or 'Freeway.' 1 stars
4/19/11 matthew Stick with 'Death And The Maiden' 1 stars
1/11/11 Moose Rapper "Hayley was impossibly smart..." To bad the wasn't. 1 stars
3/21/10 nathan b great directing, acting and editing makes up for its lacking plot. 4 stars
3/12/10 brian That's one heapin' steamin' helpin' of vigilante justice there. 5 stars
9/28/09 jpwcpa Hayley was impossibly smart, and impossibly strong, for a 14-yr-old 2 stars
9/01/09 SpaceGoat Self-indulgent, ghoulish and sadistic, the target audience clearly being man-haters. 1 stars
7/07/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess Something every moralist will want to masterbait while watching. 1 stars
6/19/09 jeanne Ellen Page was incredible. It goes around, it comes around... 5 stars
3/28/09 GRAPELGANGER Awesome movie... great ending 5 stars
3/25/09 mariah the ending was awesome 4 stars
1/08/09 Lori good movie but pretty odd and nasty 4 stars
1/08/09 Anonymous. ellen page is awesome. she can be this freak, and she can be juno... 4 stars
10/29/08 Matt C. Wow. So many reviewers who feel Hayley was too cruel to the pedophile/murderer. Great film/ 5 stars
9/25/08 Timothy Kirkland Smart writing, cast of 5 people, very off center 4 stars
9/13/08 Claire ok, did you even watch the movie?? she DIDNT cut his balls off!!! stop complaining. 4 stars
9/07/08 Rod Good acting, rubbish directing, dodgy plot, not worth sitting through 1 stars
9/06/08 m Brilliant movie. Great acting - Ellen Page can be a monster. She doesn't cut his balls off! 5 stars
8/11/08 Heather A 14-yr-old who can do surgery? Gimme a break! Totally unbelievable! 1 stars
7/12/08 Paul's2¢ Two pervs - one who doesn't kill, one who doesn't cut. Vigilante hot air for simpletons. 3 stars
6/30/08 Chris Don't like torture movies (like Hostel - yuck!) and this stinks too, despite good acting. 1 stars
6/11/08 DK A great film, understanding of tension is apparent in Slade's direction. 5 stars
4/29/08 art THIS IS ONE SICK MOVIE 1 stars
4/29/08 dan i think this film was wierd, i thought it was pretty gd but didnt think he deserved 2 die 4 stars
4/08/08 Michelle The ending is lacking. Maybe flashbacks of the girl that was killed would help tie it? 3 stars
4/06/08 bob total shit, with shit ending, and he moved pretty well concidering his balls where cut off, 1 stars
3/28/08 Lawrence Peabody Excellent performances make up for the flimsy plot; a flawed but memorable thriller 4 stars
2/03/08 Joseph Becker A movie that makes one ask who is the problem? The "pedofile", or those quick to judge. 4 stars
1/13/08 David Pollastrini could of used some gore but great and scary 5 stars
1/12/08 TreeTiger Craaaap-o-la 2 stars
1/04/08 Cheryl who's more messed up? . the prick teasing torturing chic or the prick teasee 5 stars
10/19/07 eleanore compelling-- original 4 stars
10/13/07 mr.mike edge of your seat suspense , marred by an unconvincing ending 4 stars
8/06/07 Chris Hansen You're not on Dateline.....bitch!!!! 5 stars
7/23/07 fools♫gold God, does this pick up! Perfect length, and explains the perfect amount! 5 stars
7/18/07 DETMURDS The "Left" must have hated this movie,...let kids be kids is what I say here! 3 stars
7/10/07 Michael its was supensefull and not as cliché as mxt movies now a days. 5 stars
5/28/07 Beverly Such an unusual plot. Left me thinking for hours, for days. Ellen Page is a phenomena. 5 stars
5/16/07 Diane I agree with the film critic. Manipulatingly provocative yet badly written, & overdirected. 1 stars
5/15/07 Mackelby I had a hard on from the very beginning, but could never really get off to this. Tease... 3 stars
4/16/07 bob Interesting...would have liked more explanation as to how 'Haley' knew what she knew..... 4 stars
3/22/07 TreeTiger It stunk really bad - stay away from this steaming pile of hot pooh..!! 1 stars
3/11/07 Patterson At some point, the rants become tedious and lose their inherent creepiness.Way too overdone 3 stars
3/06/07 Stanley Thai A very good and disturbing film. 4 stars
1/18/07 MP Bartley Has its moments but too studied, overwritten and overdeliberate to be truly provocative. 3 stars
12/31/06 Maggie Wow. A must-see. 5 stars
12/26/06 Agent Sands Amongst the top form of comeuppance films, torture endurance films, & battle of wits films. 5 stars
12/23/06 K. Sear Wow, there is actually such a thing as a movie that desperately NEEDS a twist ending. 1 stars
12/20/06 ALDO FINALLy A CURE for pediphiles...They will never look at children the same way again 5 stars
12/14/06 T. McGregor This had me squirming in my seat. Fantastic performance from Ellen Paige. 4 stars
12/08/06 malcolm vague; hard for me to believe a 14 y/o can be that malicious and conniving 3 stars
11/29/06 Joanie incredible 5 stars
11/19/06 Carson This movie is brillant. Ellan Page is going to be huge. 5 stars
11/19/06 Bevan It's intense for the most part and against the conventions of most mainstream films 4 stars
11/15/06 Elveran A movie about two disturbed people. And a pointless story about how cool torture is. 1 stars
11/14/06 chelsea wow i can't really find words to describe it wow 5 stars
11/09/06 DarkEnchantress it sucked! Im into blood and thrillers, but this just was not worth shit! 2 stars
11/08/06 Bitchflaps Redundant offal masquerading as a "provocative psychological thriller" *yawn* 1 stars
11/06/06 Indrid Cold I'm ashamed to admit it, but Ellen Page is freaking adorable. 4 stars
11/01/06 Dissappointed Castration didnt happen! WORST ENDING EVER! NOT JUSTIFIED/VERIFIED! Missed chance 2B Great! 1 stars
11/01/06 TeenGuy My fav. movie EVER, makes me wanna do it... 5 stars
10/30/06 ES Good watch, but I can see Ellen Page getting on audiences' nerves rather quickly 4 stars
10/19/06 Henry Una excelente película que incomoda, particularmente a nosotros los hombres 5 stars
10/13/06 lauren I really didn't know how to think but it left me thinking for hours 4 stars
10/11/06 Yazzluv I thought it was pretty good...I loved the color palet and the dialog 4 stars
10/09/06 Danny Intense. Very intense indeed. 4 stars
10/08/06 peta press Hate to state the obvious; this is a Nazi film, anti-paedophile instead of anti-semitic!! 5 stars
10/07/06 Giselle ortiz Exelente 1 stars
10/02/06 Drdanny If it makes you squirm, it's doing its job. 4 stars
9/25/06 Rich Very well executed, thought provoking twists and turns that keep you unbalanced. 4 stars
9/21/06 Joe K One to get you talking. Maybe it shows what should happen to all pervs? Loved it! 5 stars
9/19/06 action movie fan intense and scary--haylaey is the predator-- 5 stars
9/17/06 Oilfinger Preposterous sadistic rubbish, utterly unbelievable, with a miracle recovery that reeks 1 stars
9/16/06 Duncan Wrong issue to use for a cheap thriller.... 1 stars
8/13/06 Brian O'Neill Extremely original thriller/horror film with two brilliant performances. Forget Saw II. 5 stars
7/31/06 Jimmy0h I was in a cold sweat!!! 5 stars
7/29/06 c0oki3z Weird but okay.. 4 stars
7/03/06 mike b excruciatingly engrossing 5 stars
6/22/06 vicki Its total crap 1 stars
6/17/06 Don Paco A glorification of torture for the PC crowd: torturing is OK, as long as it's done by girls 1 stars
6/04/06 mary this movie is too boring to be disturbing and too much suspension of belief is required. 1 stars
6/02/06 San Lamar oh my god 5 stars
5/05/06 martha philpotts tremendously thought provoking 5 stars
5/01/06 Ole Man Bourbon Amusing at times, but not much to it. 3 stars
5/01/06 David Awful-- awful boring that is. Could have been done in about five minutes max. 1 stars
4/29/06 Sabrina Unsatisfying and insults the audiences intelligence 2 stars
4/27/06 Kenneth D. Robin this may be one of the worse movies that I have ever seen. It makes very little sense 1 stars
4/24/06 brendan can someone tell todd the word is 'penchant' not pension. using it twice irritates 3 stars
4/22/06 Mase Orignial daring filmmaking. A movie to squirm to and think about 5 stars
4/14/06 Ronald Pottol intense! 5 stars
4/13/06 Roldan Din Pretentious! Pseudo-intellectual at its peak! 2 stars
3/28/06 Jennifer nelson incredible 5 stars
4/11/05 Elliot Brilliant and compelling 5 stars
2/07/05 J. Cantor A MUST SEE! 5 stars
1/24/05 Chris Gonsalves Freaky N' Cool 5 stars
12/13/04 SANJA EXELENT WRITER 5 stars
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  14-Apr-2006 (R)
  DVD: 19-Sep-2006

  16-Jun-2006 (18)

  13-Jul-2006 (R)

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  David Slade

Written by
  Brian Nelson

  Patrick Wilson
  Ellen Page
  Sandra Oh
  Jennifer Holmes

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