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Sunday, November 6, 2011

DISAPPEARED -- movie review by porfle

DISAPPEARED, aka "She's Gone" (2004), starts with a simple premise and dives right in--well-to-do English husband and father Harry Sands (Ray Winstone) finds that his daughter Olivia, who is doing charity work with a friend in Istanbul during a college hiatus, is missing, and he goes there to try and find her.  When he arrives he discovers that the two young women have been working as strippers, and suspects that a certain customer with overly-amorous intentions has kidnaped Olivia. 

Ever since MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, Turkey has seemed like a scary place for Westerners to get swallowed up in, and while it isn't presented here as quite the hellhole Billy Hayes made it out to be, it's still a daunting location for a stocky, middle-aged English businessman to go blundering around sticking his nose into things.  The most tense confrontations occur when Sands starts making trouble at the shady strip club where his daughter and her friend have been working, especially when he finds out that another girl who worked there has gone missing some time before.  Olivia's mysterious admirer at the club, Peter Vine (David Westhead), turns out to be a business tycoon in the middle of a big-money deal that the British foreign office would like to see go through, which makes their weaselly representative less than cooperative with Harry's harrassment of him. 

Ray Winstone, who played "Captain Stanley" in 2005's excellent Australian Western THE PROPOSITION, gives an outstanding performance as Harry Sands.  He's interesting to watch every second he's on the screen and is utterly convincing in the role even when the camera is half an inch from his face, which is often.  Lindsey Coulson is also good as his wife Joanna, who joins Harry later on in Turkey after it's found that an unidentified woman has been using their daughter's passport.  And as if they didn't have enough troubles already, the nightmarish situation begins to expose certain chinks in their marriage for them to agonize over. 

Emily Corrie plays Olivia's friend Manda, who, while helping Harry in his investigation, reveals some interesting factoids about Olivia's personal life that knock Harry for a loop.  Haluk Bilginer does a solid job as Inspector Yilmaz, a Turkish cop with much more pressing matters to deal with than one missing woman.  The rest of the cast is more than capable as well.

While the story remains compelling throughout and a certain level of suspense is maintained, DISAPPEARED never really builds up much of a head of steam.  I kept expecting things to get really scary and tense, and for a mood of oppressive dread to begin to develop at some point, but the film rarely achieves anything approaching this.  Aside from a couple of twitchy scenes between Harry and the strip club owner and a pretty surprising revelation toward the end, there's not much here to get the blood racing or the mind boggling, including a barely-there ending. 

I couldn't help comparing this movie to Paul Schrader's 1979 thriller HARDCORE, the quintessential movie about a conservative father descending into a nightmare world of depravity to find his missing daughter.  Compared to that pulse-pounding tour of Hell, DISAPPEARED is merely a fairly absorbing distraction that you could play for your guests during teatime without unduly upsetting any of them.

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