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June 2011

Abandoned

cast: Brittany Murphy, Dean Cain, Mimi Rogers, Peter Bogdanovich, and Tim Thomerson

director: Michael Feifer

84 minutes (12) 2010
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Scanbox DVD Region 2
[released 13 June]

RATING: 7/10
review by Paul Higson

Abandoned

Running times seem to be shrinking again and it's all for the better. Particularly so, as the longer a film gets the less story they appear to have to tell, and the more hours they put you through the less content there is. To this end Brittany Murphy's last film is a pat, well-paced thriller with the expected twist and the quota of three acts. No dawdling, just a lean, winding adventure told in a short 80 minutes. In the first act we are introduced to Mary (Murphy) a banking talent who is escorting her beau of four months, Kevin (Dean Cain) to a doctor's appointment for an operation on his leg.

Following a string of bad luck relationships, Kevin is seemingly the one, but just so as not to jinx this she has kept him from view, and her best friend Christine (Kristen Kerr) is pressing her for an introduction. This doesn't quite ring possible as Kevin was at Mary's mother's funeral a month before, and Mary may have few friends but, what, no other friends or family or acquaintances that could turn up? Still, the plot needs this unfeasible detail as Kevin must go in for his appointment but fail to return from it and, in the absence of those introductions, she can find nobody to verify that he was in the hospital or for that matter ever existed. The doctor who was scheduled to operate on him is on holiday, he went through reception unnoticed, ahead of Mary while she parked, and the nurse who met them, Amanda (America Young), is no nurse that any of the staff recall.

When he is over an hour late returning she goes looking for him and wrong sides the hospital staff; particularly hospital administrator Markham (Mimi Rogers) and the burly security man Holloway (Scott Anthony Leet). The more that she insists and the more she evades them the more convincing is their argument that she is suffering a mental breakdown and that the boyfriend is imagined. A police detective, Franklyn (Jay Pickett), visiting the hospital for a check-up is asked to evaluate the situation. He searches all floors and puts questions to all staff but to no avail. A glimpse of Kevin is identified by Mary in the corner of reception CCTV footage but it could be anyone.

Psychiatrist Doctor Bensley (Peter Bogdanovich) becomes involved and summarises that the fantasised perfect boyfriend is a result of her needing someone to help her with her recent bereavement and the failure to come to terms with her mother's death. Medication is found on her to support all this, which she does not deny is hers but, of course, this helps convince nobody that what she is reporting as her version is the truth. This plot point made so early at least dismisses the twist option that Kevin is imagined as a double bluff and that being the case would be unwise.

Kevin, with his fear of hospitals, asked her not to leave him, not to abandon him, and it is a promise Mary is determined to keep. Evading everyone again, she hides in the morgue and finally receives a call from Kevin asking her to find him and instructing her not to trust anyone before he is seemingly discovered with the phone and assaulted. An accident puts her in one of the hospital beds where she is visited by the old man (Tim Thomerson) who had earlier befriended her in the canteen. His story then was a tear-jerker about supporting his wife in her treatment for cancer. Now he has another story revealing the true story of the plot against. Her talents are to be put to use or accomplices will begin cutting Kevin up into little pieces. Mary must now make some big decisions if she is to save Kevin, and she cuts loose through the hospital again to make a series of deadlines while trying to determine who she can trust.

This veteran film watcher was not to be tricked or derailed by any of the film's revelations, though others should enjoy the rollercoaster ride for all of its twists and turns. Unfortunately, though the film is quick it is not zippy enough to avoid the un-likeliness of some of the plot devices. The CCTV cameras are not governed by anyone in the plot, so even if cameras were being avoided it seems unlikely that it could be spun out without their assistance. The inspiration for the plot against Mary comes from a book that plays a returning role in the story but it seems too big a clue to leave lying around and is an absurd revelation. The funeral attendance has been identified already as too much of a contrivance. The time frame is a bit ungovernable too. Jeez, are waiting times that good in the U.S.A. that someone is going to fret about someone one hour overdue. Kills do not take place when it would be most convenient for the villains. Instead, it is drawn out long enough for a reprieve and retaliation. But despite all of these chagrins, the pace of the mental legerdemain, whether it fools you are not, is appreciable.

On a more troubling note, there is certain tastelessness to the final shot and line when Murphy's character is asked how she means to proceed following her ordeal. She responds, "I'm just going to go on living one day at a time." They walk in silence towards an exit and the film announces in subtitles there and then that it is dedicated to its tragic star. It may have been wiser to withhold the dedication until after a fade to black.



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