Control (2004 film)

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Still from the film
Directed by Tim Hunter
Produced by Lori Forte
John C. Donkin
Written by Todd Slavkin
Darren Swimmer
Starring Ray Liotta
Willem Dafoe
Michelle Rodriguez
Stephen Rea
Polly Walker
Kathleen Robertson
Music by Louis Febre
Cinematography Denis Lenoir
Edited by Sunny Hodge
DisneyToon Studios
Emmett/Furla Films
Distributed by Millennium Entertainment
Release dates
  • 7 December 2004 (2004-12-07)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6,800,000

Control is a 2004 American direct-to-video film directed by Tim Hunter and starring Ray Liotta, Willem Dafoe and Michelle Rodriguez. It was produced by a United States production company and filmed in Bulgaria.


Lee Ray Oliver is a death row inmate who is given a lethal injection before a room of witnesses. He awakes in the morgue to find that he had only been administered saline and anaesthetic. A neuropharmacologist, Dr. Copeland, tells him that he has a choice: either agree to be a human subject for an experimental drug trial with potentially serious or fatal side effects, or he will receive a truly lethal injection.

Oliver opts for the drug trial, where he is administered a "calming" medicine on a daily basis and tested extensively to see if his sociopathic tendencies decrease. Twice, Oliver fakes being relaxed to lull the guards and scientists into a false sense of ease, whereupon he attempts an escape. First he asks for a smoke, second he talks to Dr. Copeland.

Over time, the medicine and psychological counseling do appear to lower his sociopathology, as measured physiologically and emotionally, and Oliver undergoes "phase two" of the procedure, where he is reintroduced into society, with a false identity and a changed appearance (tattoos and scars removed, dress and hairstyle change).

Oliver is under constant surveillance, but manages to escape supervision to attempt to befriend and assist a helpless bystander who was victimized during one of Oliver's past crimes. Oliver feels deep remorse now for shooting the man, which left him mentally handicapped. Though the man no longer recognizes Oliver, he cheerfully accepts the friendly offerings. However his brother, who is the man's caretaker, recognizes Oliver and seeks revenge. Simultaneously, Oliver is also being sought by the Russian mafia, who seek revenge upon Oliver for killing the nephew of a mafia boss.

Though Oliver makes progress in establishing a new life, getting a job, keeping his anger and violence in check, and developing a relationship with a female co-worker (Teresa), his past comes to haunt him, and he is captured by the victim's brother, who kills one of Oliver's pharmaceutical supervisors while kidnapping Oliver. This ultimately leads to a hit squad being sent out to put Oliver down. The doctor believes that Oliver was making progress and did not kill the man, so secretly tries to help him, entangling himself in the situation. They eventually learn that Oliver's progress was not due to the medicine after all, as he was in a control group which received a placebo, but instead was due to the counseling and Oliver's willingness to change. They try to flee the state, but are caught by the hit squad, which kills Oliver. Then the cops arrive and stop the squad from killing Dr. Copeland.

The film ends with Dr. Copeland as a counselor in a youth center.



Nominated for a Golden Reel Award.[1]

Critical reception

Since the film was released directly to video, it was not extensively reviewed in the media. Those who did publish reviews were generally impressed by the leads' acting, and by the premise that people who have done extremely bad things in the past can move toward redemption. One viewer wrote:

"Thanks to the intensity of Ray Liotta, Control is a violent crime movie that grabs you by the throat in the opening credits and doesn't let go until the end."[2]

One viewer suggested the story was inspired by the novel Blood of Heaven, a 1996 book from American writer Bill Myers.


  1. "Control". Retrieved 2006-09-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links