In any movie where good people are being scammed by nefarious ripoff artists, there’s always the potential moment where the protagonists become so stupid and trusting that you lose all sympathy for them. That moment occurs about midway through “Reclaim,” when the kind-hearted potential adoptive parents stumble blindly into yet another in a series of flim-flams.
Those parents, Shannon (Rachelle Lefevre) and Steven (Ryan Phillippe), have traveled to the Caribbean to adopt sweet little Nina (Briana Roy), a young orphan who lost her mother in the Haitian earthquake. While Gabrielle (Jacki Weaver, whose resemblance here to Sally Struthers may or may not be coincidental) from the adoption agency sets up Nina’s passport, the wealthy American parents and their new daughter have a few days to bond at a seaside resort in Puerto Rico.
It’s there that they first encounter the shady Benjamin (John Cusack), who keeps popping up in their presence. And one morning, they wake up to find Nina is gone, and that the whole “adoption” was a scheme to bilk Americans out of their money.
Shannon, adopted herself, insists on tracking down the girl anyway, which only serves to further ensnare them into the dreadful schemes of Benjamin and his cohorts. (When Shannon and Steven believe that Benjamin’s lady sidekick will lead them to Nina in a crisis of conscience, that’s when the aforementioned tipping point happens.)
At that point, it’s scammer vs. scammer vs. victim, in a tropical paradise that gradually turns into a balmy hell as the cinematography by Scott Kevan (“Deliver Us from Evil”) stops resembling a Sandals commercial and starts getting shadowy and forbidding.
Cusack, as he has tended to do of late, overplays madly, exuding bad vibes from every pore. (The e-cigarette he puffs is now officially the accessory of choice for movie bad guys, it would appear.) Lefevre and Phillippe generate empathy as people with a troubled past trying to make a nice future for a suffering child, but the screenplay by Luke Davies and Carmine Gaeta make the characters such hapless dupes that audiences eventually throw their hands in the air over such guilelessness.
(Our heroes do win back some audience goodwill in a shamelessly contrived yet admittedly suspenseful sequence that’s a literal cliff-hanger.)
If you’re a new parent easily upset by movies in which a child goes missing, “Reclaim” might be more than you can handle. Otherwise, this is a fairly routine thriller about white suburban Americans way out of their depth away from home.