Gone is a film with a prophetic title—so prophetic, in fact, that I am in something of a rush to write the review before all memory of the experience is gone from my brain, and so you can read that review before this dumber-than-your-proverbial-parcel-of-parsnips movie is gone from theaters. The latest attempt to foster the belief that Amanda Seyfried ought to be a movie star—an idea that never seems to find traction—had the potential at least to be “so bad it’s good.” Unfortunately, the best it could muster was “so bad it’s really bad.” Had I noticed it was written by Allison Burnett, who penned the execrable Untraceable (2008), I’d have known this was likely. At least Untraceable managed to be tasteless. Gone just manages to kind of ooze across the screen for 90 minutes like a garden slug in need of a good salting.
Here’s the idea: A couple of years before our story begins, Jill (Seyfried) was kidnapped by the world’s most inept serial killer. (The plucky lass escaped with the aid of a previous victim’s arm bone.) Now Jill is living with her recovering-alcoholic sister, Molly (Emily Wickersham, I Am Number Four), working in a diner, learning martial arts and obsessing over the idea that the killer will return. Wouldn’t you just know—and you did, if you saw the trailer—that she’d come home from work one morning and find Molly gone, just like the title says. Of course, the cops don’t believe that anything happened, because Jill, you see, has a history of mental illness (indeed, her own kidnapping seems a little sketchy). The only cop who seems sympathetic is Peter Hood (Wes Bentley), who mostly stands around looking suspicious—until he disappears for most of the film to take soup to his ailing mother (honest, that’s what the script claims).
Since no one will believe her, our plucky-but-possibly unbalanced heroine (think of her as a bug-eyed, medicated Nancy Drew) sets out to find her sister before it’s too late. What this results in is one of the pokiest mysteries in the history of the motion picture. The movie’s idea of a suspenseful scene is whether or not Jill can escape from the restroom in a hardware store. It hardly matters, because all this will do is allow her to borrow or rent another car and drive around some more. (Useful travel tip: In Portland just about anyone will apparently let a stranger use his or her car for a couple hundred bucks.) The tedium of this is broken up by Jill encountering various shifty characters in her search for the killer (“My girlfriend says he has rapey eyes,” says a skateboarder who looks far from trustworthy himself) and having—believe it or not—one of those false-scare-by-cat moments that stopped making audiences jump about 60 years ago. If anyone involved with this movie had two brain cells to rub together, they wouldn’t be involved with this movie. It’s hard to even muster a “ho hum” over it all.
Where will it all end? Will our Jill find herself back down in the same hole where she was imprisoned by this madman once before? What do you think? What you may not think is that any so-called thriller could possibly contain an ending as flat and lame as the one we’re handed here. But, boy, does it ever. Yes, the script is dreadful, but the direction by Heitor Dhalia—who, like the nuts, came all the way from Brazil to make this—is probably even worse. I’d say Gone is a shoo-in for one of the worst movies of 2012, except no one will remember it even existed by December. Rated PG-13 for violence and terror, some sexual material, brief language and drug references.