ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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Abandon (2002)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Stephen Gaghan

Starring:
Katie Holmes/Catherine
Benjamin Bratt/Wade
Charlie Hunnam/Embry
Gabriel Mann/Harrison
PLOT-CRUNCH
Catherine (Holmes) is one stressed-out hot chick. She’s a senior at an elite college, has to complete a heavy thesis and is trying to nab a high-paying job at a fancy New York firm, all at the same time. When her pretentious “artsy” boyfriend (Hunnam), who’s been missing for 2 years mysteriously re-appears to stalk her around campus, things get even more complicated. [sings] I’m just a girl in the world and that’s all that you’ll let me be….
THE LOWDOWN
“Abandon” is a slow paced psycho-drama pretending to be thriller that’s low on thrills (does that make sense?). Apart from the “twist” ending (I use the term loosely), there’s just nothing really gripping about this movie content-wise.

Which brings me to my biggest letdown: on a narrative standpoint, the film never capitalized on its goodies. The trendy wear “boyfriend” re-appearing in the picture angle could’ve been a suspenseful and eerie card if dealt right, but here, the film lays it on the table so flatly that it’s a bore to witness. Actually, every time this grim piece had the possibility to reel me in with a potentially creepy subplot, it handled it in a half assed manner or resolved it in a BS way, making me wonder why I invested 1% of my being into the movie in the first place.

The characters and their relationships are also nothing to brag about. Although I enjoyed Benjamin Bratt’s (Wade) performance, I didn’t buy for one second that he was struggling with the bottle (cheap character device; didn’t work) or that he and Catherine would become friends, yet alone lovers. Their relationship just wasn’t developed enough to justify them hooking up and to me, it came off as very improbable. Wade also has to be one of the worst detectives this side of the continent. His job is to find Embry, but every time he gets a hint that the dude is back in town, he takes all kinds of time to get on it. You should start drinking again bud; get your edge back!

The other players in this kindergarten didn’t fare much better either. How am I supposed to care about anyone when 85% of the peeps are despicable twits? The returning boyfriend (Hunnam) is so arrogant and pretentious that he put me to shame. With his cocksure attitude and his “poseur” Jim Morrison duds, he reminded me of the kinds of dudes I used to drown in toilet bowls in high school; needless to say, every time he popped up on-screen to spit out his “superiority trip” jive, I groaned incessantly. The whiny tree-hugging Harisson (Mann), the loud mouth bitch best friend Samantha (Deschanel) and the oddball chubby chick Julie (Linskey) also grated me to the point of self-inflicted pain while hardly bringing anything worthwhile to the story. Shite, even the damn school shrink (Goldwin) is “off” with trying to bag Catherine in the sack. Is it me or is everybody in this house neurotic as hell? Is it me or does everybody and their uncle want to nail Catherine like she’s the only piece of tail on earth? This school blows and not in the way you want it too.

Thankfully, the main saving grace in regards to "Abandon" is the captivating Katie Holmes and her rock solid performance as Catherine. I adored her complex character and the poignant theme of “abandonment” that she brought with her. The flick succeeded in backing up the character’s psychological state via its visuals and Holmes was up to the task thespian-wise and then some. She not only proved to me that she could act (that scene where she sells herself at the interview; sold me!) but she also confirmed that she looks great in any form of undress (thanks Gaghan for aiming the camera where it counts…on her ass!!). Seriously though, if it wasn’t for Holmes’ strong show, I would’ve tuned out early on. She carries the movie as far as she can and is responsible for half the rating I give to this PMS piece of celluloid.

The other positive aspect that I relished is the high style that Gaghan slapped my way and the morbidly beautiful cinematography which coated it. The whole flick is bathed in a sumptuous aura of dread that my horror-loving ass couldn’t helped but be swayed by. There’s a scene in particular where Katie and her friends are tripping out (yes, kids in College take drugs; jolt that down Ebert!) and the bluish lighting and the strobes hitting hard made that scene one of the more memorable bits in the film. I was drooling over it almost more than I was drooling over Katie’s oh-so white and tight panties. I also appreciated Gaghan’s way of communicating his narrative structure. The flashbacks are delivered in a novel way, especially during the finale where everything came together so nicely. Which brings me to the twist ending. Now it does wind up giving the film an added dimension, but I unfortunately guessed it about halfway through and that took away from its impact. This is a case of a film thinking it’s smarter than it really is; anybody that studied “horror twists 101” will be able to guess this baby’s trick early on. Having said that, I still dug the finale and it made me value the movie more.

The only question that remains is: are you going to dump this beeyatch or snap her neck like a carrot stick? Here we go!
GORE
Other than Hunnam’s crazy blonde hair...not much. Light blood here and there.
ACTING
Katie Holmes (Catherine) is the film; she gives a focused and mature performance that truly impressed me. She also has nice legs, ass, tits, lips, eyes and did I mention ass? Benjamin Bratt (Wade) spreads the charisma on thick and underplays it. Good move, dude! Charlie Hunnam (Embry) plays a pretentious a-hole and he does it well. I hated his character so I guess that means something. Zooey Deschanel (Samantha) and Gabriel Mann (Harisson) both annoyed the shit out of me, but that’s more to do with their characters than their acting abilities (I think). Melanie Linskey (Julie) of Heavenly Creatures fame gives a “hammy” show; but in her defense, the role is “hammily” written.
T & A
You can’t go wrong with Katie Holmes in her white undies and bra. Like REALLY can’t go wrong! Baby looks super duper yummyliscious fine! The ladies get Charlie Hunnam and Benjamin Bratt shirtless.
DIRECTING
Gaghan paints a pretty/somber picture. The feel of the film is one of its highlights with morbid atmosphere dripping off every frame, lots of play with sounds, strobes, filters and a groovy way of handling the flashback motif. Too bad the script wasn’t up to par with the visuals.
SOUNDTRACK
We get an eerie score by Clint Mansell and some really groovy techno tunes.
DVD FEATURES
Distribution: Paramount DVD Release Date: March 18, 2003

IMAGE: The Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1 image was very sharp, clean and the stylish lighting that’s found in this film mucho benefited from it. Great transfer!

SOUND: The English (Dolby Digital 5.1) sound was also impeccable in all of its aspects, be it score, sound or dialogue. We also get an English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround) and French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround) option. Available subtitles: English

EXTRAS :

Commentary (full-length): Director Stephen Gaghan and cinematographer Matthew Libatique come in for this mostly “technical” commentary. Talk on locations, lighting, sets and what they would change on a technical standpoint if they could go back was heavy and in my opinion, the commentary will appeal more to peeps with a strong interest in filmmaking. I have that interest so this commentary was my bag.

A Look at the Dark Side: The Making of Abandon (~ 22 minutes): Cast and crew (yes, the lovely Katie Holmes too) come in to talk about the film. Gaghan is the biggest talker here, giving insight about the script, how he wrote it with Katie Holmes in mind, his rambunctious college past and his transition from writer to first time director. This feature is tightly edited, contains scenes from the film, some on-set footage and MUCH more! The film was shot at my old College (“John Abbott College”) where I took acting for 3 years and it was a kick to see it again, especially onscreen.

Deleted and extended scenes: Here we get 6 deleted or extended scenes with optional commentary by Stephen Gaghan where he provides us with insight about the making of the sequences in question and the reasons as to why they were cut out of the final print (usually time or redundancy factor). An interesting note is that you can catch a glimpse of me at the end of the “Alternative Theatre” deleted scene. That mime getting his ass whipped in the last frame of the feature is me, yo!

We also get Trailers for "Abandon" and "Four Feathers".

Taking into account that the film was a box office flop upon its theatrical release, I was surprised at the content of this DVD. Quality is abound audio/visual wise and we get enough extras to satisfy. Good work, Paramount! NOTE: I watched this flick again and yes, as predicted...dug it more upon second viewing.
BOTTOM LINE
The trailers for Abandon are totally misleading. This is not a thrilling thriller. Yes, it has the ingredients to be one, but it never capitalizes on them. What we’re dealing with here is: a good looking, laggy, melo-psycho drama with a hot/talented lead dame and a horror-inclined twist. If that’s enough for ya to shell out the beans, be my guest, otherwise I suggest you abandon this one at the altar and hit a more accomplished spread instead. I will say this though; I have a feeling that if I see this one again, knowing its intentions from the get-go, I might dig it more. I’ll wait for the DVD though; life’s too short.
BULL'S EYE
Fred Ward and Tony Goldwin both have cameos here.

I acted in a scene in this movie but it (of course) wound up on the cutting room floor. The scene in question was Embry’s Trip Hop Inferno play; I was one of the actors in the play. You can still see my name in the end credits though. Credited as Trip-Hop Mime/ John Fallon. Hopefully the DVD will have my scene on it. GRRRRRRR! First "Rollerball" and now this one too! I’M SICK OF BEING CUT OUT!
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