From its Krzysztof Komeda-goes-techno score to its name-dropping of Camus, Freud, and Nietzche, the campus thriller Abandon is the kind of indescribably bad film that only a very smart person can create. Specifically, that person is enfant terrible Stephen Gaghan, fresh off his Oscar win for writing 2000's Traffic and eager to strut his stuff not only as a serious scenarist but also as a moody stylist of would-be nail-biting suspense. The combination proves fatal: Bathing every frame in murky blues and greens, directing actors to deliver their lines like televangelists, and deploying a non-linear structure at the worst possible juncture, Gaghan proves he's the last person who should be translating his own convoluted, overwritten material to the screen. As a result, his talented cast is set adrift, with Katie Holmes vacillating between doe-eyed naif and delusional psychotic, Benjamin Bratt attempting a hard-boiled Sam Spade routine, and talented young performers such as Zooey Deschanel, Gabrielle Union, and Melanie Lynskey each walking to the beat of her own idiosyncratic drum. It's an intriguing idea to transpose the classic betrayed-lover suspense scenario to the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a contemporary Ivy League(ish) school. But in its unrelenting effort to wow the audience with its aptitude, Abandon comes closer to such trash as Gossip (2000) or Antitrust (2001) than anything with Alfred Hitchcock's name in the credits.
by Michael Hastings review