A film with the cast of Jeff Bridges, Keifer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock is one that I’ll always pay attention to, yet in the 1993 film The Vanishing, a career worse performance is given by one of these three headline actors, and it’s not Sandra Bullock.
The movie begins with a disturbing look at the character of Barney played by Jeff Bridges. Barney is troubled and is planning to abduct a woman at some point. What’s rare is the film looks to the preparation behind these attempts. For me this is much more frightening than a slasher movie. In those films, the killer usually wants revenge and is just killing whoever he comes upon. In this scenario, Barney is looking to abduct someone and is taking the time to figure out how long someone will be unconscious if he uses chloroform, and how best to get a woman inside his car. From this powerful scene, the film doesn’t just go downhill, it falls off a cliff.
The other side of this story belongs to Jeff and Diane, a young couple in love as played by Keifer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock. Jeff and Diane are on vacation when they stop at a gas station so Diane can buy the driving Jeff some beer(what?). Jeff is playing hackie sack like a good jobless hippie from Seattle might in the early 90’s and Diane, never comes out of the gas station. Jeff begins a quest, lasting over 3 years to find Diane and discover what happened to her.
The main problem with the film as I see it, is the performances by the main characters. Now, for those of you who have seen 24, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that Keifer Sutherland isn’t exactly the best actor in terms of crying. He’s just so sappy when he cries, he looks pathetic. Unfortunately that isn’t the worst performance in the film. We have Nancy Travis playing the role of Rita, Jeff’s new girlfriend. Rita is frankly kind of a nosy bitch. When Jeff tells her things with the investigation of Diane is over, she doesn’t believe him, hacks into his computer, which is a horribly written scene by the way, and stalks him. What’s worse is throughout the film, the audience is suppose to root for this relationship and I kind of hoped he just got rid of her. She’s just honestly not good in the role at all and some of her “fight” scenes were just so silly.
As bad as that was, that too wasn’t the worst performance in the film. The honor of worst performance in this film has to go to Jeff Bridges as Barney. That’s sad for me to say as Bridges is one of my favorite actors going and I typically love his performances and choices he makes. This choice, to play Barney as French/Dutch/Euro-Trash is just so off-putting. It’s not just the accent he uses either, the mannerisms and physicality demonstrated in the film are just from another film. This film has no sense of tone as it swings from attempted comedy to thriller to romantic drama and never hitting on any of them. It’s an odd day that I’ll admit to enjoying the performance of Sandra Bullock over Jeff Bridges and Keifer Sutherland, but in my own defense, Bullock is in the film for about 10 minutes total, so maybe that’s why I thought she was so good. Anyway performances aside, this is not a good film. It started out so interesting and from there director George Sluzer made poor decisions one after another