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Monday, August 16, 2010

ABANDONED -- DVD review by porfle

Melancholy is the feeling I got watching the late Brittany Murphy in her almost-last film appearance.  Never quite a favorite actress of mine, I still liked her in such films as FREEWAY, SIN CITY, and especially the ironically-titled THE DEAD GIRL.  As her penultimate swan song (a final film is currently in post-production), the suspense thriller ABANDONED (2010) isn't exactly memorable, but as a passable time-waster it holds its own quite well.

Brittany plays Mary, whose boyfriend of four months, Kevin (Dean Cain), is going into the hospital for simple knee surgery.  He's one of the last patients admitted into the old hospital as it's being closed down and relocated.  But when Mary returns to Kevin's room after several hours, he's gone and nobody remembers seeing him.  Not only that, but his doctor is on vacation, his nurse apparently never existed, and he isn't listed in any of their records. 

As Mary begins to panic and search the hospital on her own, dubious hospital administrator Markham (Mimi Rogers) and security chief Holloway (Scott Anthony Leet) imply that she's delusional.  Mary's only hope seems to be Detective Franklin (Jay Pickett), who's there for a check-up, although he also suspects that she's imagining the whole thing when a bottle of potent anti-depressants falls out of her purse.  She even starts to doubt her own sanity until she gets a frantic cell phone call from Kevin.  He's hurt, he doesn't know where he is, and he's in big trouble.

ABANDONED plays a lot like one of those old ABC Movie of the Week films like "Dying Room Only" with Cloris Leachman as a woman whose husband has mysteriously vanished from a roadside diner without a trace, and also reminds me of Michael Crichton's spooky 1978 hospital thriller COMA with Geneviève Bujold.  Mary's "Twilight Zone"-type predicament gets deeper and more complicated until finally there's a nifty surprise revelation that twists everything into a whole different direction, ending with an exciting action sequence within the dark bowels of the old hospital.  In the meantime, there's plenty of nerve-wracking cat-and-mouse stuff as she eludes her dogged and increasingly hostile pursuers in a desperate search for the missing Kevin.

Direction and production values are meat-and-potatoes stuff and the script is merely adequate, but once things get cranked up the story generates more than enough suspense to sustain interest.  As for plot holes and implausibilities, I try to go along with yarns like this without getting too hung up on such things if they're sufficiently glossed over.  Director Michael Feifer is an old hand at this kind of potboiler, having recently specialized in a number of fairly well-made DTV serial-killer flicks about Ted Bundy, Richard Speck, The Boston Strangler, The BTK Killer, Henry Lee Lucas, and Ed Gein.

Feifer has a good cast to work with here--I can imagine him taking special delight in directing a star like Brittany Murphy even though she's not quite at the top of her game here.  (An unfortunate case of "trout pout" caused by too much collagen proves a nagging distraction as well.)  Dean Cain is likable as Kevin, while former Mrs. Tom Cruise, Mimi Rogers, along with Peter Bogdanovich as a slimy psychiatrist intent on proving Mary a nutcase, suffice as possible bad guys for us to hiss.  Jay Pickett (Detective Franklin) is a veteran of several of Feifer's serial-killer flicks, while genre stalwart Tim Thomerson shows up as a genial old codger who gives Mary some emotional support while his wife endures chemotherapy. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  A trailer is the sole extra.

ABANDONED is the film equivalent of a fast-read pulp novel whose only aim is to entertain, and succeeds pretty well in doing so.  As one of our last looks at Brittany Murphy, it's something of a letdown only because we've seen her give better performances in much better movies.

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