Movie Review: Kidnapped and lost your glasses? A stranger with a cellphone can help — “Unseen”

Suspenseful but contrived, over-the-top and far from the most “logical” thriller, file “Unseen” under “sloppy movie but a good time.”

It’s a sight-impaired person imperiled thriller, borrowing its can’t-see, a stranger on a cell phone can help plot from “See For Me.” This short, brisk and sometimes cute tale a first for Blumhouse) loses its urgency and sense of logic more than once. But it has its edge-of-your-seat moments. And thanks to stars Midori Francis and Jolene Purdy, we root for our heroines, two strangers linked by a misdial and the frantic effort to save one from her murderous ex.

“Grey’s Anatomy” alumna Francis plays Emily, who wakes up tied-up in the Michigan hunting cabin of her psychotic “trust fund baby” ex-boyfriend (Michael Patrick Lane).

Purdy, of “Orange is the New Black,” is Sam, a rural Florida convenience store clerk bracing for another day of hell-on-the-job. It’s her number that blind-without-my-glasses Emily rings when 911 reassures her that they’ll get permission to figure out where she is and save her in “an hour.”

Emily’s overpowered her “talks-too-much villain” captor — “Remember why we were together?” But she breaks her glasses, and the world’s a blur, from her cell screen to the woods she lunges into in attempting her escape.

Sam, a plump, quivering mass of insecurities bullied by her redneck boss (Nicholas X. Parsons) — “You smell like failure!” — is thus given the responsibility of directing this stranger to safety by narrating what she sees on Emily’s phone to her, looking up problem solutions (how to bust out of zip ties) on Youtube and by getting woodlore tips from the least hostile customer to stop into Gators Galore Gas and Convenience.

The cellphone as “work the problem” tool has been a feature of a few films now, including the recent “Missing.” “See for Me” was better and more believable at making the gadget a literal lifeline.

But this script finds a lot of mischief and mayhem to visit on our two linked-by-T-Mobile strangers. Emily’s ex is hunting her, and since he kidnapped her on her morning jog, she’s wearing the least-camouflaged track suit imaginable. Meek Sam, already coping with an abusive absentee boss and a busted squishy/Icee/Slurpy machine, finds herself forced to help Emily, but facing off with the Rich Bitch Customer from Hell.

Tell the truth. You pictured Miss Pyle when you read that.

As Emily’s plight grows more dire, Sam’s situation escalates in the most Missi Pyle way ever.

There are a couple of gonzo moments in that convenience store that could have set the tone for “Unseen.” Pyle typically appears in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” fish-eye lens close-ups, exaggerating her over-the-top menace.

Some of Emily’s confrontations with rich nut job Charlie have an almost comical “couples therapy” edge.

And there’s a bit of bonding between the two women — who cannot KNOW both are Asian-American — over the racism of “Breakfast at Tiffany;s” (Mickey Rooney’s “white guy in ‘yellow face'” stereotype) and the way cruel kids use “Power Rangers” insultingly on Asian classmates.

There’s good stuff here, not all of it lost in a sometimes illogical, often slow-footed 76 minute (with credits) thriller. Engaging leads aside, this never quite “gets there.” But at least the story doesn’t waste a lot of anybody’s time in the attempt.

Rating: unrated, violence, profanity, pot use

Cast: Midori Francis, Jolene Purdy, Michael Patrick Lane, Nicholas X Parsons and Missi Pyle.

Credits: Directed by Yoko Okumura, scripted by Salvatore Cardoni and Brian Rawlins. A Blumhouse film, a Paramount Home Entertainment/MGM+ release.

Running time: 1:16


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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