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‘While She Was Out’

Tom Doty Times Columnist

2 months 18 days ago |4 Views | | | Email | Print

A meek housewife in a bad marriage finds nothing but trouble on Christmas Eve, when a last-ditch shopping expedition puts her into the orbit of four homicidal youths.


We first meet Della Meyers through the eyes of her stockbroker husband, Kenneth. He’s an abusive snot who is losing his clients more money than he is making for them. He comes home from another migraine-inducing day at work and immediately launches into a tirade on how messy the house looks. Then he gets downright nasty and insults his wife’s appearance before punching a hole in the wall. It’s obvious he is only one stress point away from abusing her physically.


Della comforts their twin children regarding Daddy’s tantrum and it is clear that this scene is becoming commonplace for them all. She heads out to pick up a few rolls of Christmas wrap and finds that the mall is at least as hectic as her home. A rusted out junk heap taking up two spots forces her to park far away. She angrily scribbles out a note and deposits it on the hum bug’s windshield.


The mall trip proves unsatisfying, with Della barely having enough scratch to pay for her purchases. Her stress is doubled when she can’t back out of her spot because her car has been blocked in by the same rust heap she left her memo on. Turns out, four young men were the culprits and they have copped a serious attitude. She confronts them about moving their car and gets an assist from a mall security guard who happens to be around when you need him.


The Rent-A-Cop gets loud with the punks but fails to note that their leader, Chucky, is armed. Chucky shoots the guard and his friends are stunned into silence, which gives Della the time to jump back in her car and plow over the curb to freedom. Unfortunately, she winds up on a closed road and wrecks at a construction site. Luckily, she has bought herself enough of a lead to gather up a toolbox from the car before fleeing the scene.


What follows is a tense chase as Chucky and his three amigos seek out Della. They prove to be a disorganized lot who have to rely on one flashlight to search a forest. Della proves to be part ninja and converts half of the toolkit into punk-killing devices.


The gang has to split up to find her, and Della is more than up to the challenge. She winds up taking them down with a measure of luck, skill and the unrelenting nerve of a woman who has suffered an idiot way too long and wants payback. You almost feel sorry for the gang. It all ends with her stumbling home a changed woman, one who is not about to put up with her husband’s lip anymore.


This works thanks to an unrelenting pace and the wise decision to stick to the plot that was crafted by author Edward Bryant, in a short story bearing the same name.


The film also owes a lot to Oscar-winning actress Kim Bassinger, who also produced. She is quite believable here and never gets sentimental. This is a character who has lived with a rage machine for years and has become somewhat numb. Tears just don’t flow naturally for her.


The film is also wise to avoid corny macho dialogue. The director, Susan Montford , is also smart to leave out dramatic music. The film unrolls in real time so Hollywood trickery would have been distracting. The tension is real enough that you don’t need that noise.


Worth a look, and stick around for the last scene, which reveals that Della is a new woman and not one you’d care to get on the wrong side of, if you value your life.


Best line: “It’s a tree stump, you dumb wonton.”


2009, rated R.

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