26 May 2012 | Lejink
Fifty years on...
This thriller, starring "Mad Men's" John Hamm, while watchable, ultimately fails through implausible plotting and the contrived use of coincidence.
Consider Hamm's anguished cop, who, at a Fourth of July pageant, in the mere minutes it took him to go to and from the toilet in a diner establishment, finds the son who accompanied him has apparently disappeared as if into thin air, never to return. It later transpires that he encounters the perpetrator just outside the diner, so how has he managed to spirit away his son and got back to the pageant in those mere minutes?
Years pass, with Hamm unable to get over his loss and attendant guilt, the emotional distance between him and his wife widening close to separation point, when a child's body is unearthed, bearing similarities to his own child and immediately throwing suspicion on a long-interred suspect. The movie then moves back and forth in time from the present-day to 1958 where we see enacted the story of the disappearance (thankfully, there are no scenes depicting the actual murder of the children) of the first child and the truth is gradually brought to light as the stories converge.
That's quite a lot to bring together in a mere 90 minutes and after all the exposition, the ending is wound up in double quick time, with a too blatant slip by the murderer and too easily obtained subsequent confession. I also thought the 1958 story was more involving, if more implausible than the present-day one, contriving a "Postman Always Rings Twice" dalliance between the father and a local femme-fatale, complete with jealous husband, unbalancing the narrative, although the transitions between the two time-frames were cleverly done, with dissolves on the shared crime-scene exhibits.
The acting was okay, Hamm jutting his jaw and running his hand through his hair in familiar angst-ridden fashion, although I thought the better acting was done by Josh Lucas as his 1950's counterpart, conveying just the right composite of Henry Fonda crossed with James Stewart as the drifter at the mercy of fate, while Morena Baccarin and James Van der Beek playing respectively the slack wife and the murderer made strong, if brief impressions too.
In the end, this was a fairly routine thriller, lacking somewhat in tension, characterisation and credibility, with more of the aspects of a TV movie than Hollywood feature. I don't think I'd pay to watch it, seeing it on the small-screen seemed about right.