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The Abduction Club
cast: Alice Evans, Daniel Lapaine, Sophia Myles, Matthew Rhys, and Edward Woodward

director: Stefan Schwartz

96 minutes (12) 2002 Pathé VHS rental
Also available to rent on DVD [released 27 January]

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
In 18th century Ireland, inheritance laws ensure that the family estate goes entirely to the eldest son, leaving the younger sons dependant on his charity - or, more likely, penniless. Only two choices are open to them: going into the church, or capturing the heart of an heiress.
   However, landowners are unlikely to marry their daughters to penniless youths. And so the Abduction Club is formed. One by one, young ladies are secretly courted, then carried off at gunpoint, and 'forced' into marriage, leaving the family with little choice but to accept the situation. But when two best friends carry off a pair of sisters without proper preparation, they incite the wrath of the younger girl's unwanted suitor, and soon find themselves on the run from the Redcoats with two rebellious girls who just won't go home...
   The film takes great pains to romanticise the abductions, making them simply an act to persuade parents to accept pre-existing romances. This, of course, requires the script to tie itself in knots. Surely if the women are routinely returned home the next day 'unspoiled', their parents don't need to consent to the unwanted marriage at all?
   Well, historical accuracy is hardly the point of the exercise. The Abduction Club is a kind of pre-industrial road movie, in which naive teens blunder across the countryside, outwitting their pursuers, falling in love, and growing up. Alice Evans and Sophia Myles, as conformist older sister and younger rebel, get the best characters; Daniel Lapaine and Matthew Rhys have to settle for looking handsome and roguish on horseback.
   What the film lacks is any sense of real menace. It may be a romance - but it's a romance where the heroes find themselves facing a death sentence, and the heroines risk disgrace and ruin for their whole family. The enraged suitor who leads the pursuit is underwritten, and his real power over the girls is revealed too late; consequently, we never have a moment's doubt that our overly-smooth heroes will win the day, thanks to a series of predictable reversals of fortune and changes of heart.
   Overall, The Abduction Club is a frothy romp that might have been better suited to Sunday night TV drama than film; nonetheless, it's enjoyable enough to while away an evening with.
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