The ludicrous and bloody New Orleans melodrama "Repentance" offers the despairing sight of talented actors in full flounder.
There's Forest Whitaker, as a basket-case divorcee and father who never got over his dead mother, stomping around with a mopey expression and a jittery left hand that’s bad-movie shorthand for impending psychosis.
There's Anthony Mackie, as a bestselling self-help author who changed his life after a devastating car accident, smiling uncomfortably through ridiculous therapy sessions with Whitaker — $300 an hour! — that involve little more than saying, "Breathe! Be verbal!"
On the periphery are Sanaa Lathan as Mackie's yoga-instructor wife, working hard to look concerned eight different ways while holding a foam mat, and Mike Epps as the ne’er-do-well brother who needs money.
When the movie segues into a torture-driven, logic-challenged hostage drama during which Dark and Obvious Secrets Are Revealed, the real showdown is an internal one for the moviegoer: between delivering the laughter that Philippe Caland's blunt, awkward directing deserves, and sitting in silent bewilderment at how quickly a strong cast’s collective dignity dissolves in the face of such dumb material. Although seeing Mackie wrapped in plastic save a tiny breathing hole, pleading for mercy, it's not hard to relate.
MPAA rating: R for violence, including torture, and for language.
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.
Playing: In limited release.