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After his 6-year-old daughter and a playmate are kidnapped, and the prime suspect (Paul Dano) is released for lack of evidence, a seemingly decent family man (Hugh Jackman) turns vicious vigilante in his desperation to force the mentally challenged loner to reveal the little girls' whereabouts. But the lead detective on the case (Jake Gyllenhaal) doggedly pursues other angles, eventually uncovering a hidden web of satanically evil events and relationships. Though it presents the facade of a thriller, director Denis Villeneuve's powerful drama is primarily a richly symbolic exploration of morality, the human condition and the role of religious faith in a fallen world. Still, its unflinching portrayal of the measures to which Jackman's character is driven - together with such seamy details as an incidental priest figure who is both a sex offender and an alcoholic - make this bleak foray into psychological darkness anything but casual fare.

Watch out for: Harrowing violence, including beatings, torture and a gory suicide, mature themes, a negative treatment of Catholic clergy, at least one use of profanity, constant rough and crude language.

Rated: L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling; MPAA: R, restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2013