Oxygen is a fairly well made film representing
what is good about independent films

One type of movie I have always enjoyed is the independent film. These films have to depend on talent rather than special effects, promotion and big stars. Recently, some of the cable TV networks have become involved with the production of original films. Many films produced this way not only can compete with theatrical releases but can often surpass them.

Oxygen is a fairly well made film representing what is good about independent films. Made through private financing it shows what determination and talent can do in films. A masochistic cop Madeline (Maura Tierney) is in very bad place emotionally. She is married to her boss Tim (Terry Kinney from HBO’s Oz), her need to have others hurt her is interfering with her home life and work. Just as she is about to hit bottom, a socialite (Laila Robins) is kidnapped and buried alive. The mastermind of the plot, Harry (Adrien Brody) is obsessed with the escape artist Harry Houdini. He is caught rather early in Oxygen but this just sets up for a dark cat and mouse game between Madeline and Harry. Harry sees some cigarette burns on Madeline’s arm and knows that she is as troubled as he is. He delights in controlling the situation and the cops around him.

The story is familiar territory, victim buried alive, time running out, air running out and the cops desperate to solve the case. What makes this movie interesting is the interaction between the sadistic killer and the masochistic female cop. The story is almost completely a showdown between these two. The other characters flesh out the cast nicely but Oxygen is basically a two-person film.

The acting in Oxygen is a notch above the typical made for TV flick. Tierney, best know for sitcom News Radio and currently in ER, has perhaps the largest list of film accomplishments. She the type of actress that is the face you recognize in films staring other people. For example, she has had featured roles in such films as ‘Liar, Liar’, ‘Primary Colors’, and ‘Forces of nature’. In Oxygen, Tierney brings a little something extra to the role. She is the innocent face that covers a deeply disturbed person. A cop that tries to save another woman perhaps because she can’t save herself from the need to have pain inflicted on herself. Brody as the kidnapper Harry is wonderfully wicked. He preceded this movie with an excellent part as Ritchie the bi-sexual in ‘Summer of Sam’. He certainly has range and is worth watching here and in the future. Brody’s manages to keep control of a part that could easily take an actor too far out there. This control fits nicely with the character and helps to develop Oxygen nicely.

Richard Shepard wrote and directed Oxygen with an acceptable degree of talent. He has promise in film. While his directorial style is a bit pedestrian here some scenes are amazingly innovative. His use of soundtrack to convey emotional impact could use a bit of work since it often takes the emotional focus away from the actors rather than enhancing their performance. Shepard manages to keep the film moving at a steady, rapid pace. Unfortunately, you can readily notice the breaks in the actions intended to insert commercials. During subsequent looks at Oxygen I see a lot of promise to Mr. Shepard's direction and look forward to other features by him.

The disc is up to Unapix/A-Pix standards, which is to say excellent. The Sound is incredibly clear and well balanced. The rear speakers are typically underused for an action film but do provide a realistic ambience to the movie. The anamorphic video transfer is free of artifact and faults displaying excellent attention to the transfer process. There is a fairly insightful director’s commentary featuring Ms. Tierney and some trailers to round out the offering. All in all Oxygen will make for an excellent evening of entertainment that will hold your interest.

Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com

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