A film review by Craig J. Koban March 7, 2012



2012, PG-13, 94 mins.


Jill: Amanda Seyfried / Lt. Ray Bozeman: Michael Pare / Powers: Daniel Sunjata / Peter Hood: Wes Bentley / Erica Longsdale: Katherine Moennig / Molly: Erica Wickersham 

Directed by Heitor Dhalia / Screenplay by Allison Burnett

The new mystery thriller GONE not only channels “The Idiot Plot Syndrome”, it proudly champions it to whole new levels of mind-numbing and tedious...idiocy.  

You know how "The Idiot Plot" works, right?  It refers to any film where the actions of one or more of the characters are explainable only because they are idiots.  A majority of GONE – a drearily substandard and made-to-order thriller if there ever was one – focuses on an inherent mystery that’s incessantly unexciting and lacks even a morsel of tension.  When it’s not boring us with its dubiously unimaginative plot machinations and vacant character dynamics, it showcases a massive police manhunt for a deeply troubled girl – who may or not be insane - that would be over in about…I dunno…ten minutes if this film’s law enforcement officials were not imbeciles.  GONE, as a result, is not only monotonous tripe as far as thrillers go, but it’s also insipid tripe to boot. 

The plot focuses on Jill Parrish (the doll-eyed and attractive Amanda Seyfried) that once was in the clutches of a maniacal serial stalker and killer of young women.  She was apparently kidnapped, bound, gagged, and thrown into a large 20-foot deep pit in the ground.  She managed to escape the hellish ordeal, but her homicidal pursuer was never caught.  Regrettably for Jill, no one believed her story, not even the police or her psychiatrists, and she eventually was thrown into a psyche hospital for fear that she was going crazy.  A year passed and she managed to get herself out of the hospital and back into the real world, but her time in there - combined with the genuine lack of compassion from the police regarding her ordeal - has left Jill a deeply distressed and fragilely paranoid woman.  

Jill lives with her sister, Molly (Emily Wickersham); during one evening she proceeds to go to her local waitressing job, but when she returns home later that night she finds that Molly is missing without any apparent explanation.  Despite the fact that no forcible entry into the home is apparent, Jill is absolutely convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the man that kidnapped her a year earlier has now returned and taken her sister.  Yet, there is no real tangible proof that Molly was snatched against her will.  Hmmm...is Jill really crazy?  Was she even kidnapped in the past?  Did she make her whole story up to the police?  Or, is there really a perverted and twisted minded kidnapper that tormented her and now wishes to do the same to her sibling? 

Fearing that Molly will be dead by the end of the night, Jill decides to engage in a one-woman mission to track down the identity of the attacker and her sister’s whereabouts.  She initially consults with the police (played so blandly by Daniel Sunjata, Wes Bentley, and Katherine Moennig that you want to slap some charisma into them), but most of them just instantly brush her concerns aside, seeing as they did not believe her own kidnapping story from twelve months past.  The detectives are at least concerned for her mental well being, seeing as Jill seems on the verge of a total breakdown when they refuse to offer her assistance.  Nonetheless, Jill gathers up her will and determination and begins to scour the streets and local businesses to see if anyone potentially has any evidence of Molly being taken.  She begins to uncover the secrets of Molly’s captor and where he might have taken her, but her task becomes all the more difficult when her actions on the streets – usually involving her crazily pointing a gun at people – gets the attention of the police, who engage in their own manhunt after her.  



For a thriller that barely registers over 90 minutes, GONE gets off to a really, really slow start and takes seemingly forever to develop any real narrative momentum.  This is not assisted by the fact that most of the film’s action comes in the form of Jill engaging in long cell phone and personal conversations, switching vehicles multiple times, and leading the cops on decidedly boring and perfunctory car and foot chases through the conveniently barren streets of Portland.  When the film makes attempts at scaring audiences in moments of would-be menace, it shamelessly and pathetically comes in the form of things either going bump in the night or stray animals jumping out in front of characters without warning.  There needs to be an immediate moratorium on movies having screeching cats lunge out at characters in desolate and run-down houses for cheap “boo” moments.  

Then, of course, there is the film’s adherence to “The Idiot Plot”: I guess that I don’t directly have a problem with a woman as attractive looking as Jill being able to use her feminine charm and some well articulated and convincing lies to gain information from people that seem less intelligent than her, like hardware store owners, landlords, janitors, fellow waitresses, and neighbors.  I also don’t really have issues with the notion of a tirelessly desperate woman like Jill going to great lengths to find her sister, even when her fanaticism with her mission seems to be overriding her common sense and the evidence at hand.  I truly don’t take exception to these things. 

Yet, I do take umbrage with the notion that the collective power of the Portland police force are unable to track, locate, and apprehend Jill throughout most of the film; in all normal likelihood, if this film's Portland PD and detectives were not idiots and behaved like savvy law enforcers they would be able to easily capture Jill without much issue or delay.  It’s not a ringing endorsement for the police in general when they can't find nab a fairly pretty blond-haired standout like Jill - even when she herself has committed several arrestable offences and never once makes attempts to disguise herself – or even piece together simple clues that straightforwardly points to Molly’s kidnapping.  Nope, because in this film’s bizarre “Idiot Plot Syndromed” universe a distraught and potentially insane young girl is able to out-sleuth the police.  Uh-huh.  The detectives in this film couldn’t find a suspect even if they reached out in front of them with their hands outstretched asking to be handcuffed 

Even worse is the film’s absurd plot twists and its bizarre and needlessly strained attempts at falsely leading viewers into thinking that certain characters are prime suspects, which are so obviously force-fed that to buy into them would, in turn, make you a fool.  GONE excretes red herrings in its plot like it were going out of style, like, for example, introducing us to certain characters, making them look suspicious, and then having them exit the film for almost its entirety afterwards to hint at their guilt.  This film also contains trite throwaway lines of dialogue uttered by embarrassed actors that pathetically try to point at certain people being prime suspects because they are not available when they need to be questioned.  My favorite has one police officer tell another that one key character - that may or may not be the kidnapper - is not around because he went to his sick mother’s house to bring her some soup.  Wow…just…wow. 

Seyfried is an appealing screen presence that does what she can with this dreadful material and infuses Jill with a believable level of frenzied fortitude throughout.  The problems with GONE are that I just never once bought into its outlandish and nonsensical cock-and-bull story conventions, its overly telegraphed and manipulative plot maneuvers (this film smugly thinks its smarter than the viewers and never once is), and its startling lack of tension.  Very few thrillers are as mercilessly dull as GONE.  

And idiotic too…let’s not forget that. 

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