Produced by Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur and directed by former actor Franck Khalfoun (who appeared in Aja’s breakthrough film Haute tension/Switchblade Romance (2003)), P2 is a frustrating affair that has some genuinely impressive moments bolted onto a weird and unconvincing hybrid of “torture porn”, William Wyler’s The Collector (1965) and John McTiernan’s Die Hard (1988).
Businesswoman Angela Bridges (Rachel Nichols) is working late on Christmas Eve. Heading for her car on underground parking level two (P2), she seeks help from the seemingly affable security guard Thomas Barclay (Wes Bentley) when her car fails to start. But Thomas isn’t all that he seems to be and Angela finds herself drugged, chained and humiliated by the insane guard who wants her to spend Christmas with him and who claims to have fallen in love with her. The resourceful Angela repeatedly tries to escape as Thomas murders a co-worker who drunkenly groped her in a lift and kills anyone else who tries to help her escape his clutches.
P2 is efficiently made, briskly paced and features a good leading performance from Nichols but it’s hard to care too much about anything that’s going on. There’s really only so much that can be done with with the film’s core ideas and its setting and Aja, Khalfoun and Levasseur, who co-wrote the screenplay, run out of creative ideas very quickly. It’s not by any means a terrible film – it’s just not a particularly interesting one.
There’s an unmistakable whiff of unpleasantness about P2‘s portrayal of a successful, hard-working career woman who as being incapable of effectively diving her time between work and family. It’s an old trope that isn’t made any less unpalatable by making Angela and clever and quick-witted. Nichols plays the part well and easily outclasses Bentley who seems to be making a pitch to become Nicolas Cage’s understudy with his increasingly gibbering, eye-rolling performance. Bentley is alleged to have said that he only took the role to fund his well-publicised cocaine addiction and it’s not hard to believe that he was as high as the proverbial kite during the filming of some of his more outrageous scenes.
Although often referred to as a Christmas horror film, the festivities barely figure in P2. It’s just a background “MacGuffin” to empty the office building where Angela works and leave her with few allies in her struggle to escape. Like Die Hard‘s John McClane, Angela is trying to get home to her family in time for the celebrations and winds up having the worst Christmas Eve of her life but really the story could just as easily have been told if Angela had left the office late at night on any day of the year.
There are a couple of decent scares, some gory nastiness involving a dog in a car and the murder of lecherous co-worker Jim (Simon Reynolds) is deeply unpleasant all of which were to be expected from a team behind one of the key films in the “New French Extremity” movement. But it’s not really about the gore and indeed the most memorably moment is the odd one wherein Thomas tries to drown Angela while she’s trapped in a stalled elevator. Khalfoun – who went on to direct one of the more interesting post-Millennial remakes, Maniac (2012) – tries for suspense and sometimes succeeds but in the end he’s undone by a script that doesn’t have anywhere interesting to go once the basic premise has been established.