Eight years ago, Tom Adkins (Jon Hamm) had his son taken from him. They were at a diner, he went to the bathroom, and when he returned, his son was missing. He’s a police officer, and has been on the case ever since, off and on. It’s always on his mind, though, and he has nightmares about the day seemingly every night, despite protests from his wife (Rhona Mitra) telling him that it wasn’t his fault.
One day, a body is unearthed at a local construction site. Tom immediately thinks that he’ll finally get some closure, but, as it turns out, the body has actually been dead for fifty years. Tom makes it his new mission to figure out who killed this child, and bring that person to justice — that is, if that individual is still alive and kicking. It has been fifty years, after all, meaning that this person is likely at least 70, if not much older, or even dead.
However, despite outward appearances, Tom’s story isn’t the one we’re going to follow for most of Stolen. Instead, we’re going to follow Matthew Wakefield (Josh Lucas) and his son, John (Jimmy Bennett). We flashback to the 1950s, and we get to see how John ended up dead and buried. We find out how the economic climate wasn’t particularly good to Matthew and his son, how John was developmentally challenged, and all of the events that lead up to the murder of a seemingly innocent little boy. Meanwhile, Tom is working on the case in the present day.
The problem here is that the two stories don’t add up. When something happens in present day, it has no correlation to events that transpired in the past. You’d expect one to have a direct link to the other, but that’s not what Stolen does. Instead, these are two more or less separate stories that are going to take place at their own pace regardless of what information a character discovers in the other one. It’s like watching two shorter films that were spliced together and tangentially linked by a plot device so that the final product can be called a “feature film.”
The other problem is that neither of the stories is particularly interesting. One is a lackluster noir, while the other is a drama about … nothing, really. A drifter and son wandering from place to place, hoping that the father will find work and maybe love. And then the kid dies. Apart, these stories would be laughed off the screen, and together they’re not much better. You should feel somber for most of Stolen, but I found myself laughing at the unintentional comedy during some of the scenes, or dozing off because of how dull the production ended up being.
It’s a marvel that Stolen is only 90 minutes long. It feels like it’s at least two hours. At the end, during the scene that’s supposed to be the climax, I was wondering if I was supposed to feel something. Anything at all, really. This final confrontation was supposed to be the high point of the film, but in a good movie, it would mark half-way into the experience. It doesn’t feel thrilling like you’d expect, nor is it particularly interesting thanks to the apathy you’ll feel for most of the time you watch this movie. There’s just nothing of interest happening for the majority of the time it plays, leading to an ending that doesn’t satisfy.
I don’t know what the budget for Stolen was (I’ve heard $2 million from an unreliable source), but it probably wasn’t very large. The film feels cheap, especially during the flashback scenes — which is unfortunate when you realize that these take up the majority of our running time. Instead of looking authentic, it feels like bad actors playing dress-up. I couldn’t believe that they were actually in the 1950s, even with the orange tinge given to these scenes to contrast them against the blue hue of present day.
If it wasn’t for the aspect ratio (approximately 2.35:1, if you’re wondering), I would have assumed that Stolen was made for television; it just feels that cheap. Nothing is done to make it feel worthy of the limited theatrical release it was given, and it’s kind of astonishing ot realize that, yes, this did get released in theaters. There are television show episodes that contain more depth and intrigue than this movie does, and they accomplish that in a far shorter time.
I like most of these actors, but they all gave one-note, uninspired performances. The actor I’m not a big fan of out of the main cast, Jimmy Bennett, actually turned in the most impressive performances. He at least made himself seem developmentally challenged — and his character even called for it. Some of the adults of the cast appeared that way even though they’re supposed to be quite smart. I swear that at one point, one of them actually watches another put a body into the trunk of a car, and yet does nothing about it.
Stolen is worse than a 30-minute crime drama on television. Does that tell you all you need to know about it? It feels like it uses a couple of rejected scripts from Law & Order or something, and then tried to tie them together hoping that the audience would just go along with the fact that they’re not really linked, and they’re not really interesting. This is a film that never should have left pre-production. It looks cheap, it feels cheap, and it probably was cheap. Good filmmaking does a lot with very little, while bad filmmaking will alert you to how bad it is without a hint of irony. Stolen is the result of the latter.