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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN -- Movie Review by Porfle

(NOTE: This is one of my earliest online reviews, which first appeared at back in 2006.)

 At first it was a little daunting to sit down to watch a three-hour movie that I knew nothing about except that it was a made-for-TV murder mystery. But once GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN (2004) gets going, it doesn't stop.

 Brooke Shields plays Betsy Tannenbaum, a hot-shot defense attorney in Sacramento, California who is quickly making a name for herself as a champion for women's rights. So she's understandably surprised when millionaire construction tycoon Martin Darius (a very creepy Scott Glenn) enters her office one dark and stormy night to offer her a $100,000 retainer as his attorney -- "just in case" some legal difficulties might pop up in his future. Before you know it, the bodies of three missing women are discovered on one of his construction sites, and he's the main suspect.

 Is Darius the serial killer the police have been looking for, known for leaving a black rose and a card reading "Gone but not forgotten" at the scene of each abduction? It sure looks like it, especially when district attorney Alan Page (Lou Diamond Phillips) gets a visit from a police detective from the small town of Hunter's Point, New York, who brings news of another series of killings involving black roses and identical calling cards.

Detective Nancy Gordon (Marilu Henner) is still obsessed with the ten-year-old case that, to her, was never resolved. Although a hapless chump with a police record for indecent exposure took the fall for it, she thinks he was framed and that the real killer got away with murder. When she shows the D.A. an old newspaper photo of the suspect, he recognizes the face immediately -- it's Martin Darius.

 The evidence against him mounts when it's discovered that Darius was having a affair with one of the murdered women, who happened to be the wife of one of his business partners, and was also acquainted with the other two victims. Plus, we the viewers are privy to something that the police don't know about -- a sleazy private detective (Jon Polito, who plays sleazy like nobody else can) hired to get some dirt on Darius, and who then tried to blackmail him with some incriminating photos, is ambushed in his home late one night (in a scene that literally made me jump), and we see a crazed Martin Darius hovering over him with a really big knife, blithely discussing various means of butchering animals. Yikes! Looks like the cops have got the right guy!

 And so, as the first half of the movie draws to a close, we figure that the rest of it is shaping up to be one of those tense courtroom dramas with lots of objections, cross-examinations, order-in-the-courts, and all the other standard courtroom-drama stuff, which, judging from what's gone before, will no doubt be entertaining but not all that surprising.

 And that's where GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN takes a sharp left turn into Weirdsville and drags us down the rabbit hole, where nothing is as it seems and the mystery just keeps getting deeper, darker, and stranger.

Unlike murder mysteries in which the viewer is given the same clues as the investigators and is invited to guess along with them, this movie consistently surprises us with one totally unexpected revelation after another. This is especially so when the D.A. and the defense attorney both travel to Hunter's Point, the scene of the original crimes, to dig into Darius' past.  The more they find out, the more it looks like maybe Darius didn't commit those murders back in Sacramento after all. But if he didn't, who the heck did?

 This movie kept me guessing for its entire running time, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The performances, especially by Brooke Shields (forget THE BLUE LAGOON -- she really is a good actress) and Lou Diamond Phillips are very good. And the ever-capable Scott Glenn is wonderfully slimy and creepy as Martin Darius. This movie is solid and well-crafted in every respect, way above average for a TV-movie. (One thing I'd like to point out, though -- don't look at the cast list before you see it, because it contains a MAJOR spoiler. Check it out afterward and you'll see what I mean.)

 Watching GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN is like curling up with a good book, and it's a real page-turner.

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