A rainy night, a frantic dash into a phone booth a car circling — pursuing. Strings on the soundtrack urge us on.
A woman, pursued. Hiding in a rest stop toilet, breaking into a car.
A guy in a rainproof hoodie, the flash of a blade, a narrow escape. Or not?
“Secret Obsession” is the stuff pure hokum is made of. It’s a humdrum and solidly unsurprising “a woman stalked” thriller, and about the best thing you can say about it is that the leads got to be leads for a change, and that hey, string players need the work — even in Hollywood.
We can hear “I’ll love you forever…and a DAY!” promised on the soundtrack as we ponder the hospitalization and recovery of Jennifer, played by Brenda Song of “The Social Network” and TV’s “Station 19” and “Pure Genius.”
She survived that opening scene, but barely. Nurse Masters (Ashley Scott) is concerned, and blunt.
Because Jennifer’s husband, Russell (Mike Vogel of TV’s “The Brave” and “The Case for Christ”) has shown up.
“My wife was in a car accident.”
“Sir, you CAN’T go in there!”
Her injuries including head trauma. There’s…amnesia.
Russell is handsome, his designer glasses and perfectly-trimmed stubble underlining that he’s “professional” and “concerned.”
Or, you know, a “Lifetime Original Movie” stalker. Serial killer, maybe.
He questions his wife, and he starts explaining — their romance, their life together.
Just. Like. “The Notebook.” Awwwwww.
She keeps smiling, obviously appreciating the life she leads at the “been in the family for years” remote (Pomona) mansion, but frowning in puzzlement when his back is turned.
And sex? Recoiling in terror seems to work
Dennis Haysbert is the long-in-the-tooth detective whose “obsession” with this case is no secret. He’s “compensating,” as they say in Writing Screen Cops 101, “atoning” for an earlier failing. The chief knows. The chief always does.
“Whatever you do won’t make up for what happened…When was the last time you took a day off?”
“This was no accident!”
Jennifer sneaks around, hunts for her phone and picks up hints and clues that something isn’t kosher in Pomona, California.
The detective keeps raising his eyebrow as he computer-searches while driving. I think that’s illegal.
The script, by Kraig Wenman and director Peter Sullivan, gives away its “surprises” with ridiculous ease. They decided to go for suspense instead. Abandoning mystery hurts their case, even if they manage some tense moments as Jennifer makes the Heroine’s Journey from pretty but passive pawn to proactive “How do I get out of this?”
But drawn out? My stars and garters! This is a 60 minute episode (52 plus commercials) of a hundred episodic TV plots dating back to the ’60s, padded and padded — always underscored with urgent strings — to 1:37.
It’s good that everybody, including Netflix, is leaping into that “Crazy Rich Asians” driven “Let’s try to tell more stories with Asian characters/actors” trend. Song has screen presence and has earned her shot, and Haysbert is criminally underemployed.
But “Secret Obsession” never looks like anything more than the quick, cheap and under-developed hack job that it is.
MPAA Rating: TV-14
Cast: Brenda Song, Mike Vogel, Dennis Haysbert
Credits: Directed by Peter Sullivan, script by Kraig Wenman and Peter Sullivan. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:37