The first thing that must be discussed about the American re-make of
“The Vanishing,” before contemplating the plot or direction, is just
what in the Holy Heck sort of accent is Jeff Bridges supposed to be
sporting? French-Canadian? Eastern College Professor? Effeminate
Eskimo? Y’know, I’m never keen on trashing “The Dude,” and his
performance is one of the only positives about this turgid thriller, but
he sounds like Fenster from “The Usual Suspects” sucking on bar of Zest.
Bridges plays your average mild-manner psychopath who decides
that he needs to kidnap a young woman. The first quarter-hour of the
film concentrates on Bridges’ Barney practicing and honing his
kidnapping skills, including accidentally sneezing into his own
chloroform-filled hanky. It’s such a quirky beginning, and Bridges is
such an entertaining performer, that, having never seen the original,
Hollywood may have slipped up and made an interesting flick with a
foreign flavor that doesn’t succumb to the petulant, paint-by-numbers
plot-falls of your average serial-killer grab-bag.
Enter Sandra Bullock. And Kiefer Sutherland. And, for the love
of God, Nancy Travis. Remember her? Neither did I. Sutherland and
Bullock are wary travelers, fighting their way through vacation and on
their way to some serious making-up. At a rest-area, Bullock
disappears, and we don’t see the action, which is cool in theory. The
audience isn’t sure what happened to her, just like her boy-toy. Did
Barney get her? Probably, but we don’t know how or where he took her.
From there on out, it becomes serious ho-hum time, with
Sutherland, three years later, still looking haggard and searching for
his long-lost love, and barely dating the heart-of-gold waitress Travis,
who’s just so darn sick of his obsession with his probably-dead ex
girlfriend. The movie slows to a crawl as we learn about Barney’s
family and get to watch Sutherland sulk. The whole get-to know-the
killer aspect is wasted opportunity, and reads pretty boring.
The film has what, I assume, is supposed to be a shocking
climax. If you’re still awake by the time it rolls around, you may
utter something along the lines of “huh,” or perhaps a yawn. In fact,
if you watched the preview trailer, the only extra on the DVD, they give
away the stunning twist (which is then aced, Hollywood style, by the
dreaded Happy Ending).
To be fair, “The Vanishing” is well put together, and the acting
is fair to good. This film fell in the time-line when Sutherland’s
career was in the toilet, and before Bullock shot to fame in “Demolition
Man” and “Love Potion Number 9.” Bridges was probably just looking for
something to wash the taste of “The Fabulous Baker Boys” out of his
mouth. It’s poorly paced and not tight enough to create any tension.
The chase through the woods near the climax is reminiscent of a Jason
chase, if Jason were a middle-aged accountant and the nubile young
teenager was, uh, Nancy Travis. If this were straight to video schlock,
it would be passable and almost forgivable. As major studio releases
go, you’re better off with a heaping helping of “Cold Creek Manor.”
A trailer that gives away the ending is the only goody. For
shame, DVD fairy, for shame.