Sunday, July 5, 2009

Abducted (Incendo/Power/Anne Carlucci/Lifetime, 2007)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2009 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

My other TV item this morning was considerably better than the Capitol Fourth concert (see below): I ran the Lifetime movie Abducted which they showed yesterday morning as part of a weekend-long celebration called “Hot ’n’ Steamy Fourth,” featuring Lifetime doing what they do best: intense, suspenseful thrillers liberally spiced with soft-core porn. This one was made in 2007 and is listed on as Abducted: Fugitive for Love (which rather gives away the plot), though the subtitle doesn’t appear on the official credits. It stars Sarah Wynter as Melanie Stone, who eight years previously married ambitious aspiring politician Tom Stone (Eric Breker). Things have deteriorated between them to the point that Tom, who’s working as a prison warden in Washington state and simultaneously launching a mayoral campaign he hopes will ultimately make him the state’s governor, sees his wife as little more than a political prop to be brought out for photo-ops so he can convey the image of being a devoted family man while he really couldn’t care less about her and is having an affair with his campaign manager, Paula Simms (Carrie Colak).

From there this movie turns into State of the Union meets Mrs. Soffel, as Melanie — who’s had to give up her job as a swimming coach to her friend Amy (Eleanor Noble), who’s engaged to prison guard George Motts (Donny Falsetti), and who is being so totally controlled by Tom that he’s ordered her not to attend their upcoming wedding because Paula says her being at the wedding of a prison guard would be bad for Tom’s “image” — teaches a GED class at the prison and meets super-convict Jack Carlson (Andrew Walker). We’ve already seen Carlson, a convicted murderer facing a 16-year sentence, square off against three other cons in the prison’s exercise yard and fight with the martial-arts skills of a James Bond (indeed, with his rugged good looks Walker wouldn’t be bad casting as Bond), so we know he’s already some sort of superhero even though he’s on the wrong side of the law, and the sexual tension between Mr. Carlson and the repressed Mrs. Stone flares up as they both flash their baby-blue eyes at each other and the camera.

Nonetheless, it’s a shock when, after Tom calls Carlson to the warden’s office and threatens to add years to his sentence for the prison fight and thereby keep him in for life — and we see that Tom had left on his hand-held tape recorder while he practiced a public speech, had an on-the-top-of-the-desk quickie with Paula (and though Eric Breker is hardly in Andrew Walker’s league as a sex god he’s hot enough, especially with his shirt off flashing an appealingly light dusting of chest hair, that he and Carrie Colak are no slouches in the soft-core porn department even though we’re breathlessly awaiting the Main Event of seeing Walker and Sarah Wynter get it on!), then had his confrontation with Carlson — the next thing Carlson does, after he’s put on the work-farm detail (the work-farm is Tom’s personal property and he treats the convicts as his slaves, sort of like the similar farm for female prisoners in the 1957 film Untamed Youth), is grab a gun from a desk drawer and use it to hold Melanie as hostage while he escapes.

He leads her on a chase through the hills of northern Washington (one suspected that this movie was set there so it could be shot just across the Canadian border in Vancouver, but according to it was actually filmed in Montréal) and plants fake clues to fool the police and federal marshals into thinking he’s either heading north to Canada or south to Oregon, but he’s really heading east to Idaho because — at this point director Richard Roy and writer Laurie Horowitz pull their big reversal — it turns out that he was really framed by his ex-wife Stephanie (Ellen Dubin) and her lover (now her second husband) Ron (Howard Rosenstein), and that the person he was supposed to have murdered is in fact still alive, paid off by the adulterous lovebirds to hide out under a new identity. While all this is going on, a team of federal marshals led by Wyatt (Rick Bramucci), who along with his female partner were on to Tom immediately (at least as far as his affair with Paula was concerned), are tracing them across the country.

The hate between Carlson and Melanie eventually blossoms into love — or at least lust — especially after Carlson plays the accidentally recorded tape in which we learn that Tom actually solicited him to kidnap, rape and murder Melanie, and used the threat of a life sentence as a way to get him to do so. Carlson and Melanie, now a loving couple instead of a criminal and his hostage, trace the supposed “murder victim” to Idaho — and find that he’s a different person altogether, and has been in a coma in an assisted-living facility for five years: Ron and Stephanie stole his identity as part of their plot, and the real person lives in Portland. Eventually the marshals trace them, but in the meantime Melanie briefly returns to her husband to get to the computer that links to the federal database so she can trace the real person’s whereabouts — and the press conference Tom calls to celebrate his wife’s safe return is crashed by her friend George, who plays the tape of Tom soliciting Carlson to murder her (Melanie got the tape from Carlson and slipped it to George), so Tom, Stephanie and Ron are all arrested, Carlson’s sentence is commuted to time served, Melanie is threatened with prison time herself for helping a fugitive but Wyatt agrees to go to bat for her with the judge to get her let off, and the end occurs at the swimming pool where Carlson meets Melanie during a coaching session and they go off together, symbolizing their new life.

Though the plot seems at times to be a cut-and-paste assemblage of Lifetime’s greatest hits, Abducted is well constructed by Horowitz and directed by Roy with a genuine flair for suspense — and in contrast to a lot of the Lifetime movies these days, it’s full to the brim with hot-looking men, not only Walker but Breker and even Bramucci, who’s heavy-set but flashes a good-sized basket during the frequent medium shots of him at work in law enforcement.