Maybe it was the agoraphobic in Kim Basinger that sparked this empty husk of a survival thriller about a woman forced to leave her upscale suburban home for the mall on Christmas Eve as a means of escaping an abusive husband, only to run afoul of parking lot toughs. An early, lengthy scene of Basinger’s Della wandering in visible distress around the crowded mall and stumbling through easy social tests like a coffee-shop order and a stop-and-chat with a college chum effectively conveys battered wife fatigue and was presumably aided by the actress’s ability to draw on the habitual skittishness of a lifelong anxiety sufferer. But the movie goes downhill from there, as Della returns to the lot where she’s accosted by one of the most implausible street gangs ever seen in a non-comedy.
The extent to which first-time writer-director Susan Montford has her ass kicked by a simple establishing scene, in which baby-faced ne’er-do-well Chuckie (Lukas Haas) and his three grad student-looking cronies appear and begin hassling Della at her car, suggests she’ll have a brief career in the big chair or at least one that doesn’t require her to lean on her own very limited understanding of dialogue. What ought to be a straightforward scene of harassment repeatedly falls on its face thanks to amateur-hour scripting that calls for the gang members to alternately bicker among themselves—the African-American takes offense when Chuckie calls him “my nigga,” for example—and threaten Della with questions like, “How about I aim the gun at your pussy?” that may have seemed tough on the page but are cringe-inducing when delivered by these actors, to this actress, in this context.
When an intervening mall cop is shot by Chuckie (complete with a thriller-inappropriate torrent of exit-wound blood) and lone witness Della flees by car, the action moves first to the open road and then to the woods, where it becomes a half-assed re-filming of First Blood, with Della venturing into the wild with a car-trunk toolbox in hand and using the tools to pick off her pursuers one by one. For audience members still sticking it out by that point, there are more weird dialogue spasms in store, such as when one gang member speculates that Della’s ability to dwindle their numbers may mean she’s an unkillable phantasm and another tries to shout out truce terms and professes his deep admiration and love for her. A coda in which Della, transformed into an anxiety-free, pistol-packin’ mama, takes on one final adversary is a nice touch but couldn’t have saved the movie even if that final baddie was played by Alec Baldwin and the two of them engaged in a swordfight to the death.