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Reviewed by Jonah Falcon
IN SHORT: Abandon all hope ye who enter the theater (of an intelligent script) [Rated PG-13 for drug and alcohol content, sexuality, some violence and language]
Those of you who watched Mystery Science Theater 3000 may remember one film called Werewolf in which even the simplest of dolts could have predicted the "twist" ending. Mike Nelson put it best by muttering, "Oh, come on! Dead people know what's going to happen!", while Crow hooted, "Surprise ending written and conceived by a tube worm!" Abandon is just such a movie, which relies on idiotic actions and contrived situations, not to mention distorting dramatic structure to emphasize the "surprise ending", while telegraphing it at the same time. However, it's proper etiquette not to give away the ending, but don't say I didn't warn you that I wouldn't have to warn you in the first place - this movie gives away the ending thirty to forty minutes into the film.
Katie Burke (Katie Holmes) is a driven college student whose father abandoned her when she was a little girl. She's struggling to complete her final thesis so she can get a high paying job at a securities firm. It doesn't help when a twelve-stepping cop Wade Handler (Benjamin Bratt) decides to question her about an ex-boyfriend who disappeared two years before, a rich boy-bitch Embry Larkin (Charlie Hunnam) Things get serious when she starts seeing Embry popping up, and one of her male friends (Gabriel Mann) disappears.
Now, the movie was written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, who inexplicably won an Oscar for the screenplay adaptation of Traffic - inexplicable because it altered and demolished the logic of the vastly superior Traffik, by including some of the worst contrivances ever put on film, like government agents assigned to guard a car leaving it unguarded long enough to plant a car bomb. Gaghan continues his streak by introducing us to one of the dumbest police officers ever to grace the silver screen in Detective (hah!) Handler.
In the movie, the reason Det. Handler is assigned to the case is that Embry has disappeared, not touched his trust fund, didn't use his plane tickets on the day of disappearance, and hasn't called home. Granted, Embry is a poseur who is just as easily going to disappear to Tibet to work as a sherpa guide, but even so, the estate wants to know if Embry is alive or dead. Det. Handler proceeds to sleep with the prime suspect, Katie Burke, and yes, she is a prime suspect because she was the last one to see him alive. So, what does our detective do? Sleep with her, of course! Detective Handler, indeed! Ah, but his stupidity doesn't end there - when he goes to a scene of a crime, he turns his back on a possible murder suspect who is obviously off their loon when the movie basically slaps him in the face with physical evidence that they are lying! Of course, we know that Handler is doomed when Gaghan shows the climax as a flashback during the denouement. It is films like this that make me believe in Darwin, since his death is merely getting rid of the weak one of the herd.
Katie Holmes does as great job as a harried college student, and I can identify with her in that I myself have abandonment issues, as well as growing up fatherless. She is young enough to be the "damsel in distress" for most of the film, and old enough to be the young, heartless executive she becomes at the end, but she is simply not convincing enough to carry off the air of the suspect that she is. Part of the problem is that the movie refuses to acknowledge her as a murder suspect 'til it becomes necessary to be, and therefore, her change in character seems to come right out of left field.
The previous night, I'd screened a horror film in which there was an vengeful spirit in The Ring; the very next night, Abandon provided a contrast in a film with another vengeful spirit - though the vengeance is from a living person. The stark difference, though, was the level of ingenuity and intelligence. The Ring forced you to think and ponder over what you'd just seen. However, Abandon is more likely to illicit laughter in the last scene than foreboding. While it thankfully isn't a Sleeping With The Enemy clone, it is a clone of the more nihilistic film noir of the 40's and 50's like Diabolique - but trust me, no one will confuse our detective with Alfred Fichet, that's for damned sure.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky, er, Jonah able to set his own price to Abandon, he would have paid . . .
Most of that money goes towards Katie Holmes' game try. She should pick better scripts though.
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