At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Abandon “02”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Psychological Thriller-Drama/ Stars: Katie Holmes, Benjamin Bratt, Charlie Hunnam, Zooey Deschanel, Gabrielle Union, Gabriel Mann, Melanie Lynskey, Will McCormack, Fred Ward/ Runtime: 98 minutes

It is often said that the trailers and marketing that a film puts out for the general public to get a sense of the finished product can either be a stepping stone to greatness…..or to colossal failure. In the instance of this film it most certainly proved to be a case of the latter and then some. To be fair though, this was a movie that’s marketing seriously led audiences on into thinking it was going to be a non-stop thrill ride, but upon viewing the finished product, this is a film that’s thrills are spaced out and not that numerous to begin with. That’s because this film is more of an analysis into a character that happens to possess a thrilling atmosphere and also wanted to tell a particular narrative more than anything else. Sadly audiences were not on the same page and, feeling betrayed by the marketing, they sunk the movie so that by the time it left theaters it had only made 12.3 million dollars and when your budget is only 25 million dollars…..odds are this movie wasn’t exactly the studio’s pride and joy. Yet I have decided to take a peek for myself and I have determined that if you’re willing to overlook the horrendous advertising then there is a decent film with a fairly good lead performance by Katie Holmes to be found here; unfortunately it just so happens that it’s not a great movie either, but instead is a film that settles for being in the middle of the road in terms of its overall quality.

The plot is as follows: Abandon is about a gorgeous and brilliant college student by the name of Katie Burke who, when our story opens, is nearing that exciting time known as graduation from the prestigious college she has been attending. Not only that, but she has an incredible future awaiting her including the possibility of a job with a phenomenal company in New York City. Soon however, things take a turn when Katie’s past comes a’calling in the form of a cop by the name of Handler showing up as part of a reexamination into the eerie vanishing act that was done by a young man by the name of Embry Larkin. A young man who also happened to be Katie’s extremely rich and quite often loopy ex. The reason for the inquiry, we learn, is because Embry mysteriously disappeared a couple of years prior to the start of the story and the attorney handling his family estate needs to know if they can finally legally declare him no longer among the living. However it isn’t long after the cop’s questioning that Katie starts beginning to see Embry around her university, but as well as other places. Thus, with all of this stress closing in around her, Katie finds herself turning quite unexpectedly to Detective Handler for solace and comfort though the question still remains: why has Embry, after all this time, come back? Suffice it to say that by the time the answer to that question is answered dear reader, you will wish you never knew the answer in the first place…..

Now while this film does have a few things in its favor, I think I should say this right off the bat: this is NOT a thriller. I say that because this film really stumbles over itself when it attempts to startle and/or frighten the audience. Indeed it really seems like the guy they put at the helm of this film really doesn’t know how to direct a scene that has the purpose of keeping an audience thrilled or on the edge of their seat. With that being said though, and to give credit where credit is due, the director does do a decent job at really making the audience ponder if Embry is truly back or if Katie is imagining every encounter since the vast majority of them occur either when she’s half asleep or frustrated. Yet, regardless of this strength as well as another scene that deals with a fairly startling jolt for the main character while alone in the library, the sad reality is that the rest of the so-called “thrills” in this are either not there or clichéd to the hilt.

However I guess the thing that saddens me the most about this movie is that this is one directorial debut that is a misfire because of how the film is directed in the first place. Indeed there really is a quite intriguing narrative that could have been told, and had the film gone with it, it really could have been a pretty good movie. Yet the sad reality is that this guy’s directorial style doesn’t let any of these more intriguing possibilities be given the time of day. That and when you realize that this was the same guy who was behind the screenplay for the wonderful 2000 film Traffic that featured both an engaging cast of characters as well as circumstances for each character to get involved in, it really isn’t hard to see how this is more of a letdown than anything else.

With that being said, I definitely feel that the most significant positive this film has going on for is what this movie’s marketing refused to show people. This would be the fact that this film, before anything else, is a semi-engrossing analysis of its main character. Indeed I say this because, to a decent extent, the character of Katie is quite intriguing and her history with the men in her life really does provide some crucial insight into Embry’s disappearance, but she also just makes for a well-rounded individual that we also get a terrific sense who the struggles she faces throughout the film. We also get more insight into her relationship that she and Embry shared through a series of flashbacks that are probably some of the most gorgeously shot moments in the film. Yet perhaps the most crucial aspect that the flashbacks help serve is that when the film goes back to the main narrative, we completely understand just Embry vanishing has affected Katie as much as it has. To say anymore however would start to veer into spoiler territory and even when a movie is as half-baked as this one, I promised I would never spoil a movie and I intend to keep that promise. Nevertheless though I guess what I can say is that the evolution of who Katie turns out to be is significantly more intriguing than the so-called “thrilling moments” or rather the lack of “thrilling moments” that populate this movie. Indeed I definitely that had more emphasis been put on developing the characters and making this a character rather than settling for cheap scares, this film might have been significantly better.

To that end I must give significant credit to Katie Holmes for doing everything in her power to help make Katie Burke as interesting as she possibly can. Indeed although Holmes normally is who Hollywood turns to give decent enough supporting roles in films like Batman Begins or The Gift, here she is able to showcase that she can lead a film and give a terrific performance in the process. In fact she does such a good job with this movie that you really find yourself wondering just what she would have been able to accomplish had the movie been able to determine just what kind of film it aspired to be. Sadly the same can’t be said for her main co-star Benjamin Bratt as he literally finds him stuck doing the same kind of role that he literally portrayed in both Law and Order as well as Miss Congeniality. Yet I have also heard that he did a terrific job in the highly regarded Pinero so, and I’m just spit balling here, maybe he should try to focus on finding roles that test his range as an actor instead of just staying in his comfort zone the rest of his career. Now Charlie Hunnam, as Embry, finds himself saddled with the complicated chore of making this character even remotely intriguing. However, because the character is only shown to us on screen courtesy of both flashbacks and the moments where he is reunited with Katie, it must’ve been quite difficult to showcase the pathos required to truly make this character the kook that everyone else in the film talks about him as. Therefore I will say that Hunnam does a fine job in the scenes he is given at turning the character of Embry into a quite privileged and kooky individual yet even there is still an element that really hurts how the character is developed. An element that takes the form of the fact that at least 50% of his screen time is devoted to him acting like a pompous child. Thus even though we are supposed to care about whether or not he really left town or not the truth is that I really didn’t. Indeed when a movie character is, to a significant amount, highly unlikable it’s very hard to care about them or anything that happens to them and that was definitely the case here. Finally I also feel that the supporting roles that we get here from Gabrielle Union and Zooey Deschanel are quite good, but I feel that Deschanel deserves just a tiny bit more of the credit since she contributes to the movie a strongly-desired sense of humor. Indeed whenever the movie begins to feel too rote or one-note, Deschanel manages to liven it back up again with a much-needed dose of comedy courtesy of the comedic lines that she is given.

Now from a technical perspective this film is absolutely well-done. Indeed this film’s cinematography manages to not only showcase a quite emotional and potent atmosphere throughout the film, but their usage of gorgeous in terms of lighting backgrounds as well as the scenery involved manage to illustrate the perfect picture for us to view during the flashbacks plus the usage of inky sapphires and mucky green manage to help set the atmosphere perfectly when it comes to the more sinister concepts that the narrative showcases. For example in the scene where Katie first sees Embry again in a room where strobe lights are going off, the whole scene is so well manufactured that not only does it actually create some tension, but it also is evidence that sometimes a film’s atmosphere can be crucial to getting the point of a specific scene across to an audience. The music is also great in how it manages to conjure up a distinct voice for our main character and also functions as a method to put ourselves in her mind and see things the ways she does. For an example of this in the film look no further than the moment when Katie goes back to Embry’s country estate for the first time since he vanished. Indeed by utilizing a soft yet potently emotional usage of the piano, the film is able to brilliantly showcase the various pathos that Katie is feeling in that exact moment in time perfectly.

All in all as said at the beginning of this review the trailer really did not do this film any favors whatsoever. Thus I will go out of my way to rectify this mistake one more time. If you are hoping this film is a thrill ride from beginning to end then you will be sorely disappointed. However if you want a slightly intriguing look into the mind of a young woman who finds herself coming to grips with the demons of her past in a way that most definitely would not consider with a few thrills sprinkled throughout then give this film a peek. Either way this film could honestly have been worse, but as it is it’s just middle of the road entertainment. No more, no less. On a scale of 1-5 I give Abandon “02” a solid 2.5 out of 5.