Abandoned, from what can be seen, will likely mark one of the last new films released starring the late Brittany Murphy, and it's probably a fitting finale for her career. That's not because the film's all that good, which this trite thriller certainly isn't, but because it showcases the 8 Mile actress' reinvigorated talent in an environment that really gives her the spotlight. Her surroundings, a sterile hospital with little visual intrigue, encapsulate something of a "Twilight Zone"-esque tale that's both tedious and rigidly basic, certainly showing why the film fed directly to the home video market. It recovers the ground that it loses by thrusting Murphy's growingly twitchy performance forward as a vital element, driving the tension with a steady stream through Michael Fiefer's otherwise bland, foolhardy picture.
Mary (Murphy), a high-profile finance professional at a local bank, takes the day off to accompany her boyfriend, her overtly-sweet and smarmy beau Kevin (Dean Cain), on a routine ACL surgery. Once they've arrived and checked Kevin into his room, followed by a nurse asking her to leave pre-op so they can obtain some information, Mary makes her way to the hospital cafeteria for a coffee and to wait until the supposedly hour-long procedure wraps up. Hours pass, and still no sign of the nurse or any page to notify that Kevin's done. Curiosity leads Mary to check out the room, only to discover that Kevin has vanished from both the pre-op room, recovery -- the hospital entirely. That includes computer records of his procedure, or anyone in the building ever seeing the man. When a man (Tim Thomerson) she's seen in the hospital comes to her with a proposal involving Kevin, and her job, matters turn from confusing to wicked quick.
The setup of Abandoned hinges on Brittany Murphy's ability to generate a growingly unnerved entity out of Mary, and she delivers an appropriate, off-and-on gripping performance here. As she darts around the hallways of the hospital, sticking her head in places where it doesn't belong and inquiring to anyone she can about her boyfriend, the Deadline actress shows a dignified level of growth in her dramatic delivery. Murphy holds our attention, especially once she starts to dig as deep as the hospital orchestrator, the head of security, and even a police detective (Jay Pickett) once matters seem dire enough, while building a bundle of off-kilter nerves within the character. This becomes important once the administrative staff begins to question her sanity, which is, I suppose, a logical step considering the circumstances.
Once it reaches the point where Mary implicates the hospital for losing Kevin -- and the hospital, in turn, begins to worm in the possibility of psychiatric issues with Mary -- Abandoned collapses into a mess of a thriller that sloppily crams together curt characterization and frustrating gaps in logic. As our heroine stumbles around the building, with "realistic" shaky-cam photography and pulsating music to push its vigorous aesthetic forward, some of the pieces of the puzzle are simply too blatant for their own good. The gruff head of security (Scott Anthony Leet), who snarls behind the complacent head of administration (Mimi Rogers), aggravates with his evident sinister disposition, while the assertion that the hospital would hastily deem an accusatory person on their premises as mentally unstable (which is where Peter Bogdanovich comes into the picture as a psychiatrist) amid a lost patient case is hare-brained, at best. These points quickly cripple the film's realism, leaving it to salvage itself with a thrilling climax.
It takes nearly an hour of watching Mary's manic searching for Kevin to crawl towards the meat of the matter in Abandoned, culminating in a twist that pins the film in a corner with only two ways out: an end that's cliché, and another that'd be mind-bogglingly incoherent. Instead of erring towards an ambitious calamity, we're served a believable yet tiresome and thrice-done endgame that's executed in about the same blunt fashion as some of the film's other overextended elements -- which, in this context, pretty much equals to "going through the motions" in this type of elaborate scheming. Within all that, Feifer's picture bubbles into a lot of meager build-up that pops in a rambling and debatably unsurprising conclusion, offering only middling glimpses of intrigue and driven solely by Brittany Murphy's sturdy portrayal as Mary.
Video and Audio:
Anchor Bay's digital translation of Abandoned onto this 1.78:1 1080p AVC Blu-ray isn't without glimmers of attractiveness, but it's mostly a bland and, at times, murky affair. Shots of close-ups involving Murphy and the other cast members pour through a few sharp glimpses of detail luster and tone correctness, while a few simple exterior shots look pleasing enough. However, there are many scenes that exhibit unstable color elements and muddy, over-processed textures, with quite a few erratic and noisy blocks of color and contrast throughout -- though these might be limits on the digital source. It's not nearly as bad-looking at Anchor Bay's Lies and Illusions disc, but it has many of the same issues that hold back a stronger recommendation for the HD version.
The audio delivery comes out equally as ho-hum in a Multichannel PCM track that, for the most part, is fairly indiscernible from the Dolby Digital track also included. Sure, the scoring sounds a bit more robust and the verbal clarity takes a step up in the high-definition audio, but the leap in quality is marginal. Since these are the predominate elements in the sound design, aside from a little firepower late in the film, it's hard to really give much of a recommendation to the PCM track for its meager advances -- though everything rings true, crisply and fairly pleasing to the ear. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are available.
All that's available here is a high-definition Theatrical Trailer (1:39, MPEG-2 HD).
Abandoned works well as a tribute to Brittany Murphy's potential as a second-wind actress gaining steam at the end of her career, but the film itself epitomizes the direct-to-video whodunit framework -- gaps in logic, cracks in the framework, and all -- with very little panache. It is, however, worth seeing for the actress' performance and the way her performance's build-up mines into a conventional but somewhat satisfactory twist at the end, but not for anything more than a Rental.
Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site