Thanks Jude, your post has prompted me to finally put some thoughts together on this film.
It's a film I would never have thought to buy if Simon hadn’t been in it, so I was rather surprised to find that, like you, I enjoyed it. On first viewing, I found the story a bit confusing, but I don’t mind that, it makes me want stay watching to find out what happens in the end. So I enjoyed the uncertainty and the twists and turns. And I enjoyed the performances.
Simon is on screen a lot, so it was money well spent as far as I was concerned. And I agree with you about his performance being impressive - it really shows what an incredibly versatile actor he is. I found him convincing as the suburban, slightly controlling husband and father. And I thought he was remarkable as the desperate father and fanatical merciless killer. And yet, as is so often the case with Simon’s characters, on a strange level I still found myself rooting for him.
One of the stand-out scenes for me was at the police station where he thinks they bring in the person who abducted his daughter, and his fury boils over, like a volcano erupting – an incredibly powerful scene where although I think Simon is always totally in control of his performance, it would be easy to believe that he lost control here, particularly as I believe some of the scenery was damaged.
Another part of the film where I think Simon was very impressive, is where he returns to the Mexican town to try and find his daughter. It’s during these scenes that we see the real Jack, and to say he’s not a good man is an understatement. There’s one extremely violent scene, and I hate violence so usually choose not to watch. But in true Simon style, the emphasis during this scene is on Jack’s emotions rather than on the violence itself.
I don’t think it was at all noticeable from watching the film that the Director Dror Soref didn’t get on with Simon. On the Region 1 version of the DVD there's a Director’s commentary and I’ve been told that Soref (and another chap) made some very derogatory remarks about him. (I don’t know if this commentary is still on the latest versions of the DVD, or if they’ve had the sense to remove it).
I think the main reason for the ‘artistic differences’ is that Simon is very committed to his work and likes to use a collaborative approach, whereas I think Soref would have preferred to work with an actor who just hit his marks and did as he was told. Apparently, at one point they mock the fact that Simon felt he could express Jack's emotions better with his eyes than with his lines – this just goes to show what idiots they are, as Simon’s eyes are like windows to his soul and he can express a huge range of emotions with them. I think Simon was also quite protective of Chloe (Jack’s daughter), who he worked with on The Guardian. Simon didn’t want Chloe to have to do a scene towards the end of the film that takes place in a filthy washroom, but he lost that battle.
As I say, I wouldn’t have guessed any of this from Simon’s performance, he gives it his all, but its worth noting that he did nothing to help promote the film.