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12 reviews, 107 user ratings

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Hard Candy
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by Mel Valentin

"Wil be best remembered for Ellen Page's breakout performance."
4 stars

An Internet predator picks up a young, underage girl. They meet at a local cafe. She coyly plays with him, inviting herself back to his apartment. Her willful naiveté marks her as the predator's next victim, but what if the tables were turned, what if the wolf in the lair finds himself the victim rather than the victimizer? And what if, with the roles reversed, the predator finds himself powerless, at the mercy of a revenge-minded young woman? If the preceding scenario sounds like the latest offering from Japanese filmmaker/provocateur Takashi Miike ("Audition," "Ichi the Killer"), it's not. In fact, this scenario isn't Japanese at all, but an American-made, indie film, "Hard Candy."

Hard Candy, a single-set, two-character psychological/mystery thriller, is the collaborative result of first-time director, David Slade, TV-writer-turned-screenwriter, Brian Nelson, and producer, David Higgins, who first came up with the idea for the film, based on a news article he came across about underage Japanese prostitutes who lured unsuspecting men into compromising positions. Not surprisingly, the potentially exploitative, controversial subject matter meant that Nelson, Higgins, and Slade had to get independent financing to get Hard Candy made.

Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson), a thirty-something fashion photographer, and Hayley Stark (Ellen Page), a wide-eyed, innocent-looking 14-year old high schooler, meet in an online chat room. Jeff has assiduously seduced Haley, but it's Haley who suggests meeting later that morning at a local coffeehouse. At their first meeting, Jeff treats Haley with a mixture of affection and condescension, but she doesn't seem to notice and buys into his "nice guy" persona. Haley, eager to check out Jeff’s work (and possibly pose for him) suggests they go back to Jeff's house.

For Jeff, everything is going according to plan. He hopes to take advantage of her, plying her with alcohol. As they both drink, Haley suggests posing for Jeff, but just as he begins photographing her, Jeff collapses, only to awaken tied up and powerless. Haley has plans for Jeff, up to an including getting a confession (or rather a series of confessions) about his past, his involvement with underage girls, and the disappearance of a local girl. Jeff may be a pedophile, but is he also capable of violence or murder? But how far will Haley go? And who is Haley really? She's obviously not the innocent, sweet-natured teenager Jeff imagined when he seduced her online and at the cage.

It's best to stop there, as Hard Candy ratchets up the suspense and tension as Jeff desperately tries to convince Haley of his (partial) innocence, while Haley threatens Jeff with physical harm. Haley's has something much darker in mind for Jeff than simply extracting a confession, reporting him to the police, and/or ruining his life. Hard Candy takes more than one violent turn, but depiction of violence (and gore) is left offscreen. As Hard Candy builds toward a seemingly inevitable denouement, male viewers will find themselves squirming in their seats and hiding their eyes under their jackets.

Setting aside objections related to the subject matter (which some viewers will find disturbing or exploitative), Hard Candy’s narrative problems begin moments after Haley’s plan culminates in a startling act of (implied) violence. The aftermath slips into formulaic reversal-double-reversal plot turns and stalker clichés. After a gradual buildup of tension, the revelations, and, of course, the powerful, visceral payoff, the last twenty/thirty minutes are a letdown, refusing to go where many extreme Asian horror films have gone before. Well before we get there, viewers will have to buy into the credibility-stretching idea of Haley as a master manipulator/genius and planner who’s thought through every contingency. Some will, some won’t. If you don’t, everything else that follows will be next to impossible to accept.

These are minor issues or criticisms, given Brian Nelson’s (mostly) skillful writing, David Slade’s unobtrusive direction (which only veers into slasher-film clichés late in the film), and Patrick Wilson ("The Alamo," "The Phantom of the Opera," "American Gothic") and Ellen Page’s ("Mouth to Mouth," "Wilby Wonderful," the soon-to-be-released "X-Men 3: Last Stand) always watchable performances. As Jeff, Wilson generally avoids overacting or broad playing, instead creating a sympathetic, if flawed, character whose guilt or innocence remains unresolved until the final scene. As Haley, Ellen Page gives a sit-up-and-pay-attention, career-making performance. Page convincingly moves from starry-eyed, tremulous-voiced innocent to calculating, vengeful sociopath.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11287&reviewer=402
originally posted: 05/23/06 19:44:59
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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

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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