At the end of a fun afternoon excursion, Sarah Fiddler and her young son step into a taxi to head home. They never get there. Fate can be cruel and today, fate has seen to it that the cab they picked belongs to Bob (Vincent D’Onofrio), a taxi driving serial killer who has long ago realized the grisly benefits of a job that delivers victims unto him on a silver platter. Re-christening the boy “Rabbit”, Bob forcibly adopts him as his own son. And keeps him. For years. Life with Bob is not easy for Rabbit. He’s mercurial, demanding (“You will serve me breakfast every day for the rest of your life”), violent and cold. Worse, Bob forces the boy to clean up after his crimes. At the same time, in his own distorted way, he wants to be a good father, to raise a son who is well-prepared to succeed in the world. What Bob considers to be success and the kind of world in which he lives is where the real problems lay. Rabbit (Eamon Farren), now in his teens, has been shown in no uncertain terms that Bob fully expects him to become a mass murderer.
From the day she exploded onto the scene with the largely misunderstood and still-controversial BOXING HELENA 19 years ago, Jennifer Lynch has been a spellbinding iconoclast on the American indie landscape, her provocative approach to filmmaking seeing her alternately championed and demonized. She is a fascinating filmmaker who’s made but several works across her two-decade career. Each have been standouts, their connective tissues threaded in baroque aesthetics, unconventional performance styles, darkly eccentric streaks of humour and, of course subversively compelling gazes into our capacities for cruelty, obsession and sexual deviancy. CHAINED is no exception. In Lynch’s hands, what could have been a simple “how to make a monster” serial killer film turns into an upsetting discourse on parenthood and instinct. At its core, D’Onofrio is a lumbering, volcanic nightmare. Everything from his body language to the uncomfortable syntax of his dialogue delivery has been altered and sculpted to make for a freakishly individualistic performance. Watch for a brief but impactful appearance by Julia Ormond, reteaming with Lynch following 2008’s phenomenal SURVEILLANCE.
— Mitch Davis