Willem Dafoe plays an art thief who, while breaking into a wealthy architect's New York penthouse in order to steal three priceless Egon Schiele paintings, finds himself locked in when the security system malfunctions. He then must use his wits and the tools at hand to engineer an escape. We soon realize that this is not something he'll be able to accomplish in a matter of hours – or even days.

That's pretty much all there is to Inside. It's another of those lone-actor survival movies, albeit one that turns the trope on its head by taking place inside a multimillion-dollar home instead of on a sinking ship or a deserted island. One assumes that director Vasilis Katsoupis and screenwriter Ben Hopkins, adapting an original idea of Katsoupis's, mean to showcase the irony of an expensive, ultra-modern penthouse being effectively uninhabitable. But if they have anything to say beyond that, it didn't come through for me. There's a lot of vague stuff about art – in Dafoe's only voiceover, he waxes about its enduring value – but it doesn't shed much light on his character (we assume he's a failed artist) or on any themes.

I've always bristled at people who insist that a movie's protagonist must be someone you want to "root for". But here I'm reminded that casting does matter. Willem Dafoe is certainly one of our finest actors, but whereas Robert Redford and Tom Hanks are indeed root-for-able in their survival movies All Is Lost and Cast Away – you really do hope that Redford is saved from his sinking ship, that Hanks gets off that deserted island, they seem like decent guys – Dafoe's glaring, reptilian persona dooms his character from the outset. There's never a sense that Inside is going to give him a happy ending, and you don't really want him to have one.

Inside is a well-made film, and Dafoe gives it his all, but it's such an ugly and punishing experience that I kept checking my watch, anxious for it to end. That's not to say I didn't like it. I just couldn't stand it.