"The Vanishing" is a slick Hollywood thriller in the Hitchcock mold, which begins with Bridges, as a chemistry teacher, experimenting with how to entice a woman into his car and then knock her unconscious.
Where the original film was haunting and spooky and ultimately quite shocking, this version is more flat and matter-of-fact. That's not an altogether bad thing until the denouement, where it follows the pattern of so many modern American thrillers ("Unlawful Entry," "Single White Female") that satisfactorily build suspense only to throw it all away with a violent, idiotic ending.
The story alternates between Bridges, whose efforts to test his own character are somewhat vague until the final act, and Sutherland, whose girlfriend simply vanishes when they stop for gas while on vacation.
Three years later, Sutherland is still looking for her, so obsessed with finding her that he's lost his job and virtually his will to live. But a waitress (Nancy Travis) who takes pity on him comes to love him, trying to replace his old girlfriend in his heart.
The cast is quite good, though Bridges' odd accent and mannerisms tend to be a bit distracting (the character's evil nature might have been better served if he'd seemed more like the guy next door, instead of the eccentric neighbor you tend to avoid).
Director George Sluizer doesn't go for quite the same evocative, uneasy point of view that made the first film a director's picture, allowing the audience to feel wrapped up in the characters' obsessions, as if they had all entered some strange nether world where natural laws somehow seemed out of sync.
Still, as thrillers go these days, this one is above average - and those who haven't seen the original may not be bothered by the conclusion.
"The Vanishing" is rated R for some violence and profanity.
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