A young woman joins an underground game of pain endurance, hoping to win the prize; US$1 million. She soon discovers the game’s rigged, and the real opponent is the man- a sadistic psychopath, who’s created the game. As things progress, she’s forced to endure ever-increasing torturous pain, as her opponent engages ever-more horrific methods to manipulate and defeat her.
Back in 1991, a little film came out, and it was called “Closet Land”. The movie starred Alan Rickman and Madeleine Stowe. Yes, you read that right – two actors. The entire film focused on the interplay of two characters: one being a government investigator and the other being a children’s book author accused of conspiring against the government. The film is shattering and worth a look, even if it isn’t “horror”.
“The Odds” feels like it wants to be a sibling of “Closet Land”. The bulk of the film focuses on two characters who do their own emotional and mental dance. This time, instead of politics, the motivation for their interaction is money. Namely, one million dollars will go to the woman if she can withstand all the pain the “game master” can dish out. Well, if she can do that AND outlast other contestants in other locales around the world.
Things begin in a typical fashion with the game master being somewhat aloof and indirect as the contestant states her intent to win while probing for information that might help her.
The game is played in rounds. Each round introduces a new device to test the contestant’s ability to withstand pain, fear, trauma, and other tortures. Once three contestants yield, give up, or die, the round ends. The contestant can leave at any time before the final round, but the prize money is forfeited. During the final round, no contestant may leave until there is one contestant left.
The woman begins with flying colors, and the game master even seems to be more helpful than he acted at first. In bits and pieces, things begin to change with each round until the two people are in a mental battle for control and survival.
In a film that is focused on the interactions of two characters for the bulk of the run time, the filmmakers must ensure a couple of things: actors who can carry the entire film on their shoulders and a script that can nail a viewer’s feet to the floor until the final scene.
“The Odds” has Abbi Butler and James Fuertes on camera, in a single room, for roughly 97% of the film. They have a nice chemistry together, and they deliver performances that come across as mostly natural with excellent timing during some of the more tense moments.
Abbi Butler makes the transition from confident to mentally tortured believable. She does it with her eyes and facial expressions that show conflicting emotions and thoughts as she suffers torture and the attention of the game master. From one moment to the next, you see her character functioning only to get past the next hurdle before another verbal exchange alters the shifting reality she finds herself trapped in.
Let’s just get this out of the way – James Fuertes was a contestant on “The Bachelorette”. Maybe his time on that show helped inform his performance in this film. I mean, without giving away too much, he has to fake his emotions to get the best out of his contestant. He does so in a way that almost convinces you of one train of thought until his character does something to hint things are not exactly as they appear. That sounds an awful lot like “The Bachelorette”. Basically, he does a better job here than you might expect given his background, and he holds his own with Ms. Butler is some of the more harrowing moments.
The script holds up, and, with minor adjustments, could work as a stage play. You get the standard introduction before the characters start bouncing off each other. The tension starts as external with the torture before the characters’ motivations begin to take over as the dominant motivator of strife and stress within the story. The script stays focused with the exception of the occasional “dream world” the contestant finds herself retreating into to deal with the torture. While the purpose of these sidesteps is clear, they do not seem to enhance the main story as well as they may have intended.
In general, the whole film is fairly tight with the exception of the mentioned “dream world” segments, though it seems editing could have streamlined the film enough that it would feel like more like a boiling pot popping its lid instead of one that has the pressure shunted aside now and then. While there are moments that are highly uncomfortable, the film does tend to cut away during the more gruesome moments. Sort of a torture porn lite. Gore fans should probably steer clear, but the film still is not recommended for those who are easily upset by stressful violence, real or implied.
“The Odds” is a psychological thriller. If you want horror, go elsewhere. If you do like thrills more than chills, you could do worse than “The Odds”. It is a decent entry in an oversaturated genre, and it goes the extra distance by attempting something other than lots of gun play and explosions.