My notes on Les 7 jours du talion (7 Days) and Tortured (NB: some spoilers).Sometimes, it happens: two films with a near-identical premise show up at the same time – in 2009, it was Dark Corners and Salvage (aka Gruesome). This, however, is just too close to comfort, since Les 7 jours and The Tortured are both Canadian (one is French-Canadian, obviously) and made in 2010, with Les 7 jours getting bragging rights since it’s based on a novel by Patrick Senécal (who scripted, for director Daniel Grou) and is therefore the ripoffee if anyone’s the aggrieved party. It’s also possible that Marek Posival, who wrote The Tortured for director Robert Lieberman, just came up with the story on his own, since it’s a fairly basic notion and, given the premise, can only be developed in so many ways – hence, the parallel details between the films (like the father being a medical professional in each case and using a remote location which is not the family home for his torturing), though there are also differences (the degree of involvement of the wife in the revenge, and – crucially – very different types of twist ending). Neither, as it happens, are much fun, though both are well put-together.
Briefly, in Les 7 jours: Jasmine (Rose-Marie Coallier), the young daughter of Bruno Hamel (Claude Legault) and Sylvie (Fanny Mallette) is abducted, raped and murdered (offscreen) by psycho creep Anthony Lemaire (Martin Dubreuil). Convinced that what the state does to Lemaire will not be enough, Bruno – who also feels guilty for neglecting his child – causes a prison transport van to crash and abducts the killer, taking him to a remote location where he can be tortured to death over seven days, though kept alive to experience the pain. Bruno takes care to inform the authorities of his intent, but not where he is. Mercure (Rémy Girard), a cop hung up on the death of his wife during a robbery, is supposed to find the aggrieved torturer and save his guilty victim. Meanwhile, in The Tortured: the young son of Craig (Jesse Metcalfe) and Elise (Erika Christensen) is abducted, raped and murdered (offscreen) by psycho creep Kozlowski (Bill Moseley, iconically cast). Convinced that what the state does to Kozlowski will not be enough (‘Killing him’s not punishment enough’), the couple cause a prison transport van to crash and abduct the killer, taking him to a remote location where he can be tortured to death (‘From now until the moment you die, you will know nothing but pain. We’re going to just keep hurting you and hurting you and hurting you’). However, a few days into the abuse, the victim claims to have amnesia since the crash, and doesn’t know why he is being tortured.
Les 7 jours is all icy francophone cool, with Martyrs-style hung-from-chains and abused tortures – and forces its torturer to assess his own corruption by examining himself (‘every time you torture that man, you kill your own daughter’), leading to a quietly devastating punchline as Bruno is lead away from the scene of his crime and quizzed by newsmen about whether he feels what he did was justified and if it has helped him at all (the answer: ‘non … non’). The Tortured looks more to US models, and caps its more effects-driven goriness – and gimmick ordeals like something called ‘the little elephant’ invented by the Soviets and involving a gas mask – with an absurd, though effective double twist (which has its roots in ‘Revenge’, a story done on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and often imitated thereafter – though, frankly, it’s in all those lynching-innocent-men-is-wrong pictures like The Ox-Bow Incident too). Blinded by their horrid mission, the parents don’t realise that they’ve not got Kozlowski (no matter which actor we see) but a minor tax offender who really does have amnesia and escapes only to commit suicide because he’s been convinced he is a child-murdering scumbag. Performances in both films are fine, pitched for exactly what their varying aesthetics demand. In the end, both sell the old revenge-as-self-destruction line, and stand as a counter to the many vigilante movies (from Dirty Harry to I Spit On Your Grave) which would have no problem with what these parents do to these killers.