Five Fingers (2006) / Thriller-Drama

MPAA Rated: R for torture, violence, language and some sexual references
Running Time: 83 min.

Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Laurence Fishburne, Gina Torres, Touriya Haoud, Colm Meaney
Director: Laurence Malkin
Screenplay: Chad Thuman, Laurence Malkin
Review published November 1, 2006

Phillippe (Chaos, Crash) plays a Dutchman named Martijn, who flies to Morocco to set up a philanthropist food program to help the needy there.  On the plane, he is drugged and taken to an undisclosed location, where he is tied to a chair and awaits the requests from his captors.  Fishburne (Mission Impossible III, Akeelah and the Bee) plays the leader of the kidnappers, Ahmat, who wants to know how Martijn got his money, who his friends are, and what he is planning to really do there.  Martijn insists on his innocence and ignorance, refuses to cooperate, and for each bit of information he doesn't provide, his captors cut off a finger on his right hand. 

As you can tell from the plot summary above, Five Fingers isn't a pleasant movie.  Films about torture rarely are.  However, at the same time, the film isn't really about torture, or human rights violations, so much as it is a mystery.  It is a proverbial chess game between two men for information, neither one giving up much, although both seem to be hiding something vital that the other person strongly desires to know.  The squeamish may not want to handle the occasional moments of brutality, but on the other hand, at least they aren't explicitly shown, which does manage to keep the necessary tone for this to remain an entertainment vehicle first, and commentary on the state of terrorism and interrogation methods second.

Despite recognizable stars, Five Fingers plays like a mix of b-movie and adapted play, with its mostly one-room location and dialogue mainly performed by the two leads.  Luckily, the performances by the two predominant characters are very strong, which does elevate this limited production into something of interest for those that enjoy an intensely-presented mystery.  There are a few occasional revelations that keep doubt in the viewers' minds, and at 83 minutes, this mildly diverting concoction doesn't outstay its welcome for those not expecting a knockout.

Once all of the cards are dealt, you realize that the creators of Five Fingers probably were trying to bite off more than they could chew, which might be a source of frustration to some viewers.  Given the serious subject of terrorism and human rights, perhaps others will find the artifice of the background for entertainment purposes distasteful.  However, regardless of personal gripes, Fishburne (who also produced) always commands attention, while Phillippe performs nicely in his role of a mild-mannered banker that is trying so desperately to protect something, while also trying to gain the upper hand on his captors.  Lesser actors would have proven disastrous to the results.  You also have to overlook the not-always-convincing accents somewhat.

Five Fingers doesn't sport a very attractive title or main premise, but for a quick and engaging little mystery, it holds ones attention.  It's clever, although perhaps not quite as clever as writer-director Malkin thinks it probably is, as there is a bit of predictability as events play out.  However, it the underlying themes does provoke discussion as to what the film is about, as well as what the current state of the world is about, which makes it a bit more than just a cat-and-mouse game of who's who.  It's a thinking man's b-movie thriller.

 Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo