KEANE

R
Reviews

Keane opens with the title character (Damian Lewis) frantically accosting harried commuters at New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal. It seems his daughter was abducted several months ago from this location, and he's asking people if they have seen her. Shot in close-up, with a frenzied, handheld style, the sequence is hard to watch, but also is a good indicator of director Lodge Kerrigan's basic modus operandi, which is in-your-face to the max.

Keane's problem is not just that he's intensely guilt-ridden over the loss of his child-he looked away for just a moment, and she was gone-but it's obvious that he's seriously unhinged. Keane rants at people who won't stop to listen to him, and mutters all sorts of things under his breath. He abuses alcohol and cocaine, has sordid nightclub sex liaisons, and in one really creepy scene beats up a total stranger he has convinced himself is the man who kidnapped his child.

Things get even scarier when Keane, who has been living in some third-rate hotel in northern New Jersey, befriends a fellow down-and-outer (Abigail Breslin), a woman with a seven-year-old daughter. As Keane becomes more and more attached to the girl, the film takes on an overwhelming aura of dread: Will this haunted wacko kidnap the child? Or will he do right by the mother and daughter, thereby achieving a first step towards rehabilitation and redemption?

Shot in an endless series of dreary locations-sleazy bars, urban slums, fast-food joints-Keane is a fascinating, often hard-to-sit-through portrait of life on the edge. With its endless close-ups, it's almost suffocating in intensity, but is saved by Kerrigan's sympathy for his character, and Lewis' utterly realistic performance. The actor, who is in every single scene, portrays Keane as an average Joe whose one fatal mistake has caused him to slip down the rabbit hole. At times, he's as normal as you and I. At others, he's the kind of guy you'd cross the street to avoid. But on every occasion, he's totally, unerringly, human. It's this "there but for the grace of God go I" subtext that makes Keane a mesmerizing peek into the lower depths.

-Lewis Beale