Short synopsis: 9 "random" people are kidnapped and wake up in this "house"; they are told that only one will walk out alive, and get $5 million. They will be watched/listened to at all times, and this is all purely for someone's entertainment. The implication is that they have to kill each other, of course. Billed as drawing on both Agatha Christie and Saw, you're led to believe it'll get brutal and psychological. Well, you get a little bit of one and nothing of two. In this day and age of "reality TV", this is just an overused and boring plot.
The characters were the first big failing. Every one was obvious and one-dimensional, and no character development ever happened. From the beginning, you knew who was going to live, it's just screamingly obvious. Let's see we have:
The Cop: hard-edged but dedicated to getting through this, claims he'll make sure the guilty parties are "prosecuted" (ooh, scary); still has his gun, which guarantees some obvious paranoia/argumentsThey are supposed to be random, and yet two of them know each other (the Star and the Designer), and of course, there's the married couple. Past that, of course, you have the easy and obvious "drama-pairings": the rapper hates the cop for being a cop, and he hates everyone else for being white, rich, or just breathing. The wife and husband are bickering over money and, oh, anything else. The star needles the dancer about not being famous. The artist and the designer needle everyone else by talking among themselves in French.
The Rapper: young, black, angry, raps about "putting holes in police", doesn't care about anybody, only slips out of this character when he's macking on The Artist's Wife
The Priest: dammit, don't waste Dennis Hopper like this, he's too damn cool. Irish priest, the voice of reason and gentility, tries to keep everyone calm, is fairly ineffective, eventually has to do what he doesn't want to do
The Designer: famous clothing designer, all too obsessed with "only having one outfit" and hanging his jacket on the shower head in the most careful way, opportunistic, selfish (Peter Capaldi, Neverwhere's Angel Islington)
The Artist: snobbish, stand-offish, French composer, nihilistic, old-money family, hasn't made money in years (with the excuse of "I'm an artist"), first to resign himself to the idea that he has to kill the rest of them and doesn't seem bothered by this
The Artist's Wife: boring, unhappy, first to die (quite accidently), argues with her husband because he's an asshole
The Junkie: seems less worried about the whole "murder" issue than she is with the fact that she'll go back to jail because she's on house-arrest, argumentative, nosy
The Star: a famous tennis player who spends her time clubbing and drinking, never helps with anything going on, complains endlessly
The Dancer: young, cute, sympathetic, no character flaws other than a sort of naivete...three guesses if she's the one who wins, and the first two don't count
Plot wise? This is Cube with a bigger budget. Seriously, completely ripped off, with only the "watcher" added...and people WERE watching you in Cube, they just didn't come out and tell you they were watching you. Here, he makes one open speech at the beginning, and is never heard from again.
Visually? Well, the house is all marble and modern glass-and-iron work, very pretty, with some cool slightly-disturbing paintings...and then you go downstairs and it's concrete and unfinished walls. Like watchin'-dude ran out of money or something. Odd house, too, the sinks work but the shower doesn't. Go figure.
Now, me, if I was kidnapped and woke up in a house full of strangers, I'd be trying to get out. That doesn't make for good cinema, though, so we have the "stand around and argue about how they can't do this to us, but let's make sure we argue with each other while we do it" phase, the obligatory "let's try this, even though physics is against us and the guy who set this up would have thought of it anyway" phase, the "let's split up, there's GOTTA be a way out" phase, all of which leads to the "well, that didn't work, let's give up and get wasted" phase. Yes, the person doing this bricked you in, only gives you the occasional bit of food, but left you with LOADS of liquor decanters and wine bottles.
Now, you suffer through a scene of them all drinking heavily (not the priest, of course) with some bad and inappropriate music overlaid (because there happens to be a great stereo and LOADS of CDs, too), which leads to the rapper commandeering it for hip-hop. Drunk pretty people + hip-hop = dancing (remember this for your next party), the artist and dancer leave separately (meeting up so he can hit on her and get shot down, of course), the rapper macks on the wife who gets up and ghetto-grinds with him, artist returns, fight ensues, wife is shoved away, nails head on railing, dies. Oops.
Everyone blames rapper, cop takes over, and things go downhill. Some say you can't treat him that way, others agree he's a killer. you know damn well he'll get out eventually and kill the cop...which he does. Tempers slowly but surely rise. The artist apparently snaps, since he keeps putting on his wife's lipstick and dancing in front of the mirror, but he does smash a decanter and make a glass shard knife before anyone else is thinking of killing anyone. The junkie and the star argue, because they are sharing a room and the junkie keeps pawing through the star's bag. Food is provided in greater quantities because people have died (a reward of sorts). After the rapper kills the cop (who gives his gun to the priest to keep), the artists gives him his food...and next thing we see, the rapper is hung. No explanation.
On and on it goes. eventually, the dancer, who they tried to make us believe died, sneaks around while the artist gloats over winning, and eventually she kills him (accidently while defending herself). The door opens, she walks into a bright light (shades of Cube again!), finds a huge duffel bag...OK, just before the door opened, I thought to myself "what if she walked out, got her money, and tried to leave, only to find herself in a new place, with other survivors like herself, like a 'semi-final round' or something?" Anyway, takes the bag and walks through another door (and where is this blinding light source? no idea) to find herself...in a house identical to the one she left, where there are several people sitting around, looking as freaked out as she is, each clutching a big duffel bag. Yep, called it.
Well, that rambled on longer than I expected, but you see what I mean, it was just weak. Nothing surprising, nothing interesting. It wasn't as bad as Hostel, but everything in it has been done, and been done better. And you've got enough here that you don't have to watch it to see what you missed...all you missed was all the times you could go "why not try this" as they weren't doing it.