Don’t buy into the TV ads selling it as a woman-in-trouble thriller. Scripted and directed by Oscar-winning writer Stephen Gaghan (Traffic), Abandon is a surprising, intriguing curiosity.
Sure, it has the thriller element — Embry (Charlie Hunnam), the rich but troubled ex-boyfriend of college senior Katie (Katie Holmes), seems to have shown up after disappearing for two years. Investigating the case is Wade Handler (Benjamin Bratt), a detective recovering from what he terms “extreme substance abuse.”
This mystery works mainly as a vehicle to develop Katie’s psychological troubles. She’s needy, somewhat dysfunctional and, at times, on the verge of mental collapse. Alternately baby-faced and cruel-looking, Holmes is perfect for the role and would seem to have plenty of adult, post-Dawson roles to which she can look forward.
Gaghan’s screenplay has a mesmerizing structure, and he clearly has taken some lessons in deliberate directorial pacing from pal Steven Soderbergh. The cinematography from Matthew Libatique (Requiem For a Dream) is hypnotic, using carefully framed close-ups and blue camera filters for the trippier scenes.
In the end, Abandon is less the cheap thriller you’d expect than it is a fairly revealing study of its two main characters — damaged-goods people whose orbits will inevitably and dangerously collide. It’s a movie that takes a refreshingly good look at parasitic romance while incorporating thrills.