Abandoned follows Mary Walsh (Murphy) as she delivers boyfriend Kevin (Dean Cain, “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman;” starring in the upcoming Georgia with Val Kilmer and Andy Garcia) to a hospital for a routine outpatient surgery. But when Mary returns to take him home, he is nowhere to be found. The hospital administrator (Mimi Rogers, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery) can’t find any record of him, and a police search turns up nothing.
Increasingly frantic, Mary is taken to a staff psychiatrist, Dr. Bensley (Peter Bogdanovich, “The Sopranos”) who pronounces her unstable. Now, she must not only find her missing boyfriend, but prove her own sanity. When a stranger informs Mary he knows of Kevin’s whereabouts, but demands a $10 million ransom, Mary realizes that to save herself and the man she loves, she must use any means necessary.
'Abandoned' looks and feels every bit like the low-budget movie that it is. The sets are interchangeable and limited, as if the entire movie was shot on the same floor of some random, undisclosed building in Los Angeles. The cast is restricted to a small circle of stock characters, while the performances are average at best. The late Brittany Murphy in the lead, however, is the only real standout from the bunch. With the use of high-definition cameras, the photography is flat and unimaginative, with little to no control in the lighting — quick and dirty style with zero cinematic appeal. This low-budget production is pretty much everything we'd expect from a direct-to-video feature, with the exception of it actually being somewhat entertaining.
In her last starring role, Brittany Murphy plays the ultra-supportive and devoted girlfriend, Mary. Her newfound love with an injured leg is Kevin (a very heavy-set Dean Cain), and he's on his way for routine outpatient surgery. At the hospital, the two doe-eyed lovers part ways, and Mary sits in the waiting room. After over an hour, she grows anxious and goes searching for her disabled boyfriend, only to discover that he's mysteriously vanished. When administrator Markham (Mimi Rogers) and her head of security (Scott Anthony Leet) are of no help, Mary grows suspicious of a cover-up and Detective Franklin (Jay Pickett) is called in to help. But as she has difficulty proving that Kevin even exists, Mary's psychiatric problems are slowly revealed and her sanity is questioned.
The plot is far from original, and the movie brings nothing new to the crime thriller genre. But the mystery and the delivery are sufficiently engaging to maintain viewer interest just enough to see how it all comes to a head. The set-up is a tad hurried but introduced smoothly, allowing for the audience to also question if Mary is a paranoid schizophrenic with hallucinations. Though her attitude can be bit cocky at times, Murphy is admirable and sincere in the role of a woman in love who slowly unravels at the seams.
To tell the truth, I may be making this sound better than it actually is. 'Abandoned' is a straightforward crime drama that plays out reasonably well. It's nowhere near great, but it's a decent movie that tries to be at least a little clever. Peter Sullivan's script could have benefited from some serious revision, help on the dialogue, and better character development, but on the whole, it accomplishes its goal with familiar, if only a bit annoying, personalities that seem to come and go as the movie progresses. Director Michael Feifer, known in the horror community for writing and directing films mostly about serial killers, keeps everything on the straight and narrow. There's nothing unique in the way he uses the camera, but he does a competent job so the story doesn't stray.
Sadly, 'Abandoned' will be best remembered as Brittany Murphy's final film, her last screen performance before her unexpected death. The movie was shot during the summer of 2009, and the young actress with memorable roles in 'Clueless,' 'Sin City,' '8 Mile,' 'Girl, Interrupted,' and 'King of the Hill' passed away six months later. This low-budget film may not compare to the caliber just mentioned, but it's a job well done from a fine actress. And the movie makes for a mildly entertaining thriller with an ending that works as a final farewell, likely intentional on the part of the filmmakers.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Anchor Bay Entertainment releases 'Abandoned' to Blu-ray on BD25 single-layered disc in the standard blue keepcase. At startup, the disc shows a series of skippable trailers for 'Growth,' 'Spartacus: Blood and Sand,' and 'The Disappearance of Alice Creed.' The main menu then shows the normal selection of options while full-motion captures play in the background.
'Abandoned' debuts on Blu-ray with a video quality that can frequently impress but ultimately feels lifeless and hollow. Obviously shot with the use of high-definition cameras, the film looks like the sort of material more commonly used for demonstrating picture accuracy. It's good for a few minutes to gain a sense of a television set's image reproduction, but after a half hour without any style or technique, it becomes tedious to watch.
The benefits of filming with such technology are very clear from the onset. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer (1.78:1) shows remarkably sharp details and dazzling fine lines of the walls in the hospital rooms and basement. Facial complexions reveal extraordinary, lifelike textures and definition, which can be jaw-dropping in close-ups. Although colors fail to amaze with bold saturation and vibrancy, they're at least accurate and cleanly rendered. Unfortunately, all the positives are quickly outweighed by an encode that simply feels too sterile and flat. There isn't anything film-like about the movie at all, almost as if the photography was not much of a concern to the filmmakers.
As is often the case when shooting in high-def, especially in a quick and dirty pace, contrast wavers between pitch-perfect to slightly hotter than normal. The whites of the fluorescent lighting often bloom, washing away important details and ruining resolution in certain scenes. Blacks can be very deep and inky with strong shadow delineation, but crush rears its ugly head from time to time. Added to that several instances of low-level noise and minor aliasing in the finer background info.
It's not completely terrible, but the presentation is pretty monotonous and starts wearing thin after a while.
Being a direct-to-video feature, I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the uncompressed PCM soundtrack of 'Abandoned.' It's nothing that will push one's system to the limits, but the presentation is adequate and complements the movie well.
The lossless mix is mostly located in the front, but the rears pick up a few ambient effects once in a while. They're very mild and ineffective at expanding the soundfield, but they're there nonetheless. The soundstage is wide and expansive with smooth, nicely-balanced separation in the speakers. Dynamics range is sharp and generally uniform. Then again, the higher frequencies are never pushed very far or exhibit any fine distinctions. Vocals are intelligibly clear and well centered. The LFE channel plays a low-key and often muffled role in the track, but it's enough to add a bit of weight to the action, however unimpressive.Overall, the high-rez presentation won't astonish or even surprise listeners, but it does what it's supposed to do in a decently engaging manner.
This Blu-ray edition of 'Abandoned' from Anchor Bay Entertainment is practically a bare-bones release, since the only supplement offered here is the original Theatrical Trailer. It would have been nice to see some kind words from the cast and crew about their experience working with the late star, but it's not meant to be. Anyone considering the purchase will simply have to do without.
'Abandoned' is a surprisingly taut crime thriller that keeps us interested with the mystery surrounding a woman's sanity. It's far from original, but it's not all that bad either for a direct-to-video production. Sadly, the movie will likely be best remembered as the final screen performance of the young Brittany Murphy, and it will likely be seen for curiosity's sake. The Blu-ray edition of the movie comes with some amazing moments in the video department and a pleasant high-rez audio option, but overall, the presentation falls ever so slightly short of high-definition goodness. Supplements are also greatly lacking, so those curious to watch shouldn't expect much from the whole package.