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Hard to make sense of this detective thriller

Friday, October 18, 2002

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Film Critic

"Abandon" can be either a noun or a verb but in this case is a kind of subjunctive: plenty of mood with nothing too substantive.


RATING: PG-13 for drug content, sexuality, violence and language.

PLAYERS: Katie Holmes, Benjamin Bratt, Charlie Hunnam, Zooey Deschanel.

DIRECTOR: Stephen Gaghan.


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That also describes the college students who populate its story. They are being questioned by Detective Ward Handler (Benjamin Bratt) about the mysterious disappearance -- two years ago -- of a charismatic rich kid named Embry (Charlie Hunnam), who may be dead or alive or in Crete or back on campus to terrorize his old girlfriend Katie (Katie Holmes).

The social agenda concerns the enormous amount of psychological pressure that university students are under these days. Also sexual, existential, career and fashion pressure. I remember being under those pressures myself, and passing all but fashion with psychedelic if not flying colors.

But unlike Katie, I wasn't being headhunted by corporate recruiters or haunted by nightmares about psychopathic boyfriends. Nor was I inhabiting a script by rookie director Stephen Gaghan, who won an Oscar for his "Traffic" screenplay but is unlikely to repeat the feat here.

Gaghan effects a certain sense of suspense, but there's a desperate dearth of editing to make sense of the whole. Holmes, Bratt and Hunnam are competent. Best performance is actually by Zooey Deschanel as a featured friend of Katie. They all do well enough in their scenes -- when you can see them.

You've heard of Mood Indigo? This is Mood Navy Blue, and if the lighting were one shade darker, it'd be Mood Pitch Black. As it is, the cinematography is so dim and shrouded, we are in need of Afghanistan-type infrared nighttime goggles to discern much of the action.

All in all, you're left in the dark about more than just the plot. "Abandon" all hope of visibility, ye who enter here.

Barry Paris can be reached at 412-263-3859.

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