There's nothing worse than a thriller that isn't thrilling. Okay, so maybe that isn't entirely true, but Abandon is one of those films that has a good concept without much to show for it.
The beautiful Katie Holmes stars as beautiful Katie Burke, a very smart college student that is on the verge of striking a great deal with a highly esteemed company. However, before her looks can get her anywhere, a police detective by the name of Wade Handler (Benjamin Bratt) comes along looking into the disappearance of Katie's boyfriend Embry Larkin (Charlie Hunnam, who was a main character on the unfortunately short-lived Fox television show "Undeclared"). Of course, Embry disappeared two years ago, apparently under his own power, and it is never really explained why the case is still being looked into, except to lead into the rest of the movie. Conveniently, just as Wade starts uncovering some clues, Katie begins to suspect that Embry has returned and is stalking her, for some reason or another.
Stephen Gaghan makes his directorial debut with Abandon; he also wrote the film. That is generally a good sign, since he was the writer behind the masterpiece known as Traffic. Unfortunately, his follow-up doesn't quite have the Oscar-quality that Traffic did. Is it a thriller? It appears so, because that's what the advertisements indicated, and that is what all of those semi-creepy scenes in the blue-lit library basement suggest. But no, it moves way too slowly for a thriller. Is it a slasher film? Well, the main character is a sexy college student, and someone is stalking her and leaving her notes, but there's not a knife in the entire movie. Is it a romance? There are many flashbacks of Katie losing her virginity to Embry, though she definitely does not bare as much here as she did in The Gift (which made that movie a truly excellent film), and she also goes on to sleep with Wade, even though he is twice her age and sort of creepy. Honestly, I don't know what kind of movie Gaghan was trying to make, but from the trailers, I was expecting a thriller, and thrilling Abandon is not.
The good side is that I really liked Gaghan's directing style. He implemented some cool visual styles and colors, though some of the lenses he used seemed rather pointless (half the movie is blue). At the few times when the movie is thrilling, he did a good job of creating suspense out of very little.
Nevertheless, the movie makes little sense, or makes too much sense, depending on how you look at it. Abandon has a twist ending that would have worked pretty well had Gaghan gauged his audience's intelligence level a little better; I figured things out about halfway through, and to make matters worse, he completely cuts up the suspense at the climax by jumping ahead in time to essentially show how things turn out, and then jumps back to show what happened. Why he did this was beyond me, as it totally gave away everything just a few minutes too early.
I didn't like the romance between Bratt and Holmes - the scenes developing their relationship were juvenile at best - and Gaghan seemingly wanted even the dumbest of audience members to guess the twist before it happened. Despite some flaws, his directing shows potential, but visual style isn't enough to make up for a boring and predictable "thriller."
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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