Missing (Thursdays at 8:00 on ABC)
Once a promiseless, 10-episode blind commitment, summer schedule filler ABC was putting together on the cheap, Missing blossomed into a full-blown midseason replacement with a couple of big-name actors shooting on location across Europe. Unfortunately, the actors and the budget can't save a dull script and an uninspired storyline.
Rebecca Winstone (Ashley Judd) had her life turned upside down ten years ago when her husband (Sean Bean) was killed in a car bomb in Vienna while her young son watched. Now her son (Nick Eversman) is going off to college in Rome, so Becca must cut the chord and let him go. A few weeks later, however, Becca hasn't heard from him; she learns he hasn't showed up to classes and has been kicked out of his program, so she drops by to check in, only to find an Italian assassin waiting for her. But we soon learn that Becca is ex-CIA, so she makes quick work of the assassin and sets out across Europe, with the help of a past flame (Adriano Giannini), to find her missing son.
Missing has all the makings of a Lifetime movie-of-the-week, from its entirely cliche and overly sappy opening to its brazen and groan-inducing one-liners ("I am not CIA, I am a mother looking for her son!"). Gregory Poirier's script is lifeless, particularly the stilted dialogue in the eyeroll-worthy opening segment where Becca chats with her husband about having more children, seconds before he is blown up. This shouldn't come as a surprise considering Poirier's past credits are terrible films: A Sound of Thunder, The Spy Next Door, Tomcats, See Spot Run, Gossip, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, etc. He essentially is taking a plot that needs no more than 90 minutes to wrap up and belaboring it for ten 40 minute installments. To fill the unnecessary time alottment, we get about a dozen scenes of Ashley Judd beating up men with guns using just her bare hands, car chases, shoot-outs, kidnappings, escapes, and every other action movie cliche you could think of. It's a predictable, wholly unbelievable, sloppy mess of a script.
Speaking of Ashley Judd, while she lends a bit of credibility to the project, she's not up to the task of saving Missing. Her character is so one-note that Judd isn't able to do much but look upset and grunt. And Becca Winstone is basically an amalgamation of several roles Judd has played previously in Double Jeopardy, Eye of the Beholder and Twisted. Sean Bean (Game of Thrones) has about 60 seconds of screen time, but I'd be willing to bet that he'll be back; I mean, you don't cast Sean Bean in your television show and kill him off for good after a minute of the pilot... which makes the rest of the proceedings even more predictable. Judd is surrounded by a bunch of one-note actors playing stock roles (hard-assed CIA agent, former lover, young man waiting to be away from his smothering mother, scorned girlfriend, blah blah). The best thing about Missing is the beautiful cinematography; shooting a show about a trek across Europe on location was a necessity, and it pays off as a fantastic backdrop. Unfortunately even the cinematography undercuts itself; for every gorgeous shot of a European city, there is a scene in which we aren't sure what exactly is happening because it's so dark and heavily edited that it just looks like shadows fighting each other.
All in all, there's the genesis of something entertaining and fun in Missing. But it's bogged down by awful writing, mediocre acting, endless action scenes that don't advance the plot, and sloppy editing. ABC should've stuck with this as low-budget summer fare; at least then it might have had a fun camp quality about it to help the viewer through all the heavy-handedness.