Patrick Malahide as D.I. Brennan in “Amnesia”

Riding herd on Bates and Jonathan Carnahan (two in-jokes for the price of one)

Riding herd on Bates and Jonathan Carnahan
(two in-jokes for the price of one)

In 2004, Patrick Malahide starred as D.I. Brennan in the made-for-tv movie “Amnesia“, which also starred John Hannah as D.S. Mackenzie Stone and Brendan Coyle as D.C. Ian Reid.  The story has two mysteries to be solved:  the disappearance of Stone’s wife Lucia (Beatriz Batarda), whom he’s suspected of having murdered (especially by Reid – boooo!!) and is desperately – one might say obsessively – trying to find, and the true identity of amnesiac John Dean (Anthony Calf, in a vastly different role from his “New Tricks” gig), a man with (seemingly) no history who may know a lot more about the entire thing than he’s letting on.

A Waking Nightmare

The action opens with Stone experiencing a waking flashback/nightmare about the night of his wife’s disappearance two months prior, where he’s just mere seconds behind her but can’t catch up, and she seems terrified of him for reasons he can’t remember.  He’s in the process of posting hundreds of “missing” posters in the hopes of finding a lead.  Returning home, we see evidence that most of his waking hours are obsessively occupied by his search, as well as online research into other missing persons.  Stone’s life has pretty much gone to pot (to put it politely), to the point where his house is a total mess, he’s perpetually late for work, and he’s increasingly trying the patience of his boss, D.I. Brennan, who sends Stone’s partner Reid over to “knock him up”.

Giving them three days to look into John Dean's case

Giving them three days to look into John Dean’s case

As Reid shuffles through some of Stone’s papers, Stone points out that there seems to be a resemblance between missing person Paul West (who’s bald and wears glasses) and the famously amnesiac John Dean (who does neither), who appeared at a hospital one day claiming no knowledge of his identity.  Stone thinks of his missing persons research as just a “hobby” to keep his mind occupied while looking for Lucia, but Reid persuades Brennan to give them a few days to look into John Dean’s case as a way of shaking Stone out of his (c’mon, completely understandable) funk.  Brennan agrees, in part because Stone is Reid’s “mate” and in part because Stone “used to be a good copper”.  However, I suspect that Reid may come to regret his decision (ooo, foreshadowing!).

The Mysterious (and Creepy) John Dean

Meanwhile, we’re also introduced to John Dean – who somehow manages to come off as slightly creepy even when he’s behaving in a perfectly ordinary fashion – and his adoring wife Jenna (Jemma Redgrave) who is apparently oblivious to his creepiness.  We learn that Dean’s ongoing amnesia is ostensibly due to a severe head injury, leaving lasting damage in the form of complete inability to recall anything of his previous life.   But Jenna is so devoted to Dean that she’s remarkably unconcerned about discovering anything about his true identity; she loves the man she’s married to now no matter who he used to be.  When Stone comes calling in the process of his inquiries, she’s quite protective of Dean and vehemently rejects Stone’s suggestion that he might actually be Paul West, a man who disappeared under mysterious circumstances following a fire that killed his wife and stepson (this becomes relevant later).

Stone begins investigating and describes his initial theory to Brennan – namely, he believes Susan West’s death by fire seems awfully suspicious when she gave up smoking a few months before and he suspects homicide.  Brennan remains unimpressed, saying that Susan West could have relapsed back into her smoking habit for any number of reasons and Stone has nothing concrete to go on.  Undeterred, Stone continues to dig deeper into Paul West’s identity, cross-checking his personal traits and idiosyncrasies against Dean’s and building a list of similarities.  His persistence and repeated visits annoy Dean and Jenna to the point that they lodge a formal complaint against him, and the situation is made even worse when Reid, in flagrant disregard for any sort of confidentiality protocol (and showing a complete lack of partner loyalty), reveals to Dean and Jenna that “D.S. Stone, and only D.S. Stone” thinks Dean is really Paul West and guilty of murdering his wife and stepson.  Way to throw your partner under the bus, Reid!  I knew I didn’t like you for a reason.  🙁

Re-Opening a Case

He's a patient listener...

He’s a patient listener…

D.I. Brennan now has bigger problems on his hands with the official complaint against Stone, but he’s compassionate enough to offer Stone additional time off, chalking up his behaviour to stress over Lucia’s disappearance.  Stone is quite passionate in outlining his case for Brennan; he wants to re-open it based on the timing and the circumstances of Susan West’s death, Paul West’s disappearance,  and John Dean’s subsequent appearance.  Brennan asks Reid for his opinion and Reid questions both Paul West’s motive and opportunity for the murders, effectively throwing Stone and his case under the bus again by his lack of confidence.  But the case is really the only solid thing Stone has to hang on to; his home life is miserable and he seems to be suffering from waking hallucinations that Lucia is still alive, sneaking around the town and their home, always tantalizingly just out of his reach.  Combined with recurring nightmares of her maybe-death, unclear memories of a bad fight on the night she left, and the receipt of an anonymous “Why did you do it?” note, Stone’s grip on reality seems to be slipping  and we begin to think it’s very possible that he could have done it.

Suspicion and Betrayal

Finding out that the plot is thickening...

Finding out that the plot is thickening…

A few more anonymous notes, hallucinations, and houndings of Dean by Stone later, Reid has done some of his own poking around and is convinced Stone is sending himself the anonymous notes (which match Stone’s computer and printer types) in a bizarre attempt at what he describes to Brennan as “transference” – namely, that Stone actually murdered Lucia and subconsciously wants to be caught for it,  even though he doesn’t remember committing the crime. Reid believes Stone’s obsession with Dean is due to his need to make Dean appear guilty of a similar crime in order to assuage his own guilt.  Brennan seems less than convinced by all this and tells Reid, with delightful bluntness, to “cut the psychobabble”, so Reid more straightforwardly suggests that Stone might have killed Lucia because she told him she was having an affair.  When Brennan asks how Reid knows this, he replies, “Because it [the affair] was with me.”  See, I knew I didn’t like this guy!  He’s a rat who cheats with his partner’s wife!  I had to feel sorry for Brennan, too, since things just became exponentially more complicated and messy for him.  Meanwhile, a series of medical tests prove that John Dean doesn’t have amnesia… a fact he’s careful to conceal from Jenna… so who’s telling the truth about what?

Laying a Smackdown

Putting the smackdown on Reid

Putting the smackdown on Reid

As part 2 opens, Brennan lays down the law to Reid in one of the best smackdowns I’ve ever seen.  Apparently he’s had the opportunity to sleep on everything Reid told him and consider it more dispassionately, because now his tone is quite a bit harsher.  He’s distinctly unimpressed with Reid for “screwing [his] best mate’s missus” and points out it could all be “sour grapes” because “after all, she left you too, didn’t she.”  Showing that his ground-level copper instincts are still very much active, he grills Reid on avenues of inquiry he hasn’t pursued:  interviewing Lucia’s parents or friends, establishing a pattern of disappearing, or ascertaining if she really cleared her joint bank account with Stone.  Reid sticks by his guns (brave of him, considering Brennan’s Glare of Death), asserting that Stone’s hallucinations, memories of fighting with Lucia, obsession with proving Dean’s guilt, and “anonymous” notes all prove that he’s subconsciously admitting to Lucia’s murder.  Brennan’s still not quite as enthusiastic about Reid’s theory as Reid is and would rather have hard evidence; he tells Reid to check Stone’s phone bills and establish if Lucia really went to France or not.  If Reid is wrong and she did… Reid will be applying for a transfer.  Aaaaaahhh, I love  D.I. Brennan!  🙂

Motive and Opportunity

Stone is next through Brennan’s revolving door to present new information on Paul West’s motive and opportunity for murdering his wife and stepson.  He’s discovered that for a substantial gap of time on the night of the murder, West’s movements were unaccounted for – enough time to commit a murder – and that West was clever enough not to get too greedy about his wife’s life insurance money.  Either Stone’s very convincing or Brennan just wants him out of his office, because Brennan ends up giving him an additional week (this was supposed to be a three-day project, remember) to prove a “conclusive link” between West and Dean.  Meanwhile, Reid can’t find any evidence that Lucia went to France…  so unfortunately, he doesn’t have to fill out that transfer request yet.  Boooo!!

A Phantom Visitor or a Delusion?

However, Stone is worried he’s losing his grip because he’s still receiving visits from a poltergeist who may or may not be Lucia.  His visitor has escalated from mysterious glimpses and sounds to rummaging through paperwork and opening drawers, but still has remarkably bad timing – running out of the house just as Stone arrives (you’d think she’d know his schedule well enough to avoid him, and hey, why doesn’t he change his locks?) and making just enough noise to draw attention to her presence.  Stone’s not sure what’s real or not, but he finally decides he’s had enough, so he bags up all physical traces of Lucia – pictures, clothes, belongings – and throws them out in an effort to move forward with his life.  Unbeknownst to him, he’s being spied upon (of course) by a suspicious Reid who puts the worst possible spin on his actions, accusing Stone of destroying evidence (although not very thoroughly because hey, he’s crazy) to Brennan, and urging a search of Stone’s house before he makes it “a sterile shell”.

Is he getting tired of the parade in and out of his office yet?

Is he getting tired of the parade
in and out of his office yet?

On the other side of the obsessive investigation coin, Stone’s persistent digging on Paul West has led him to conclude the man didn’t really exist;  he’s a construct without photos, medical records, or paper trails of any kind, except for a fake birth certificate and passport. He also discovers that West “practiced” his M.O. by arranging for Susan West to have an accident that prompted her to take out a life insurance policy.  Stone is convinced Dean will use this same “slick M.O.” with Jenna just as he’s used it with many other women before.  Brennan hears him out – or appears to, though Stone is raving a bit by this point – and sets Stone to looking through records of wives with missing husbands, enlisting Reid to keep an eye on him.  But it’s really a ruse to keep Stone occupied while the cunning Brennan goes out to engage in a little B&E of Stone’s house to gather evidence for himself; he’s concerned enough about the entire situation to take matters into his own hands.

A Little Cat Burgling

A stylish cat burglar

A stylish cat burglar

Brennan easily makes the most stylish cat burglar I’ve ever seen, ranking right up there with Jack Turner in his black turtleneck and leather jacket.  As one might suppose of a man who wears sleeve garters and eyeglasses on a lanyard, he’s amazingly well prepared for nearly every occasion, including a break and enter.  He arrives at Stone’s house with his own set of matched lockpicks in a custom leather case and is as proficient with them as a practiced thief (it’d be interesting to know where he picked up these skills), letting himself in with ease.  Surprisingly enough, he doesn’t run into Poltergeist Lucia while he’s there.  He makes a slight (and we’re sure, uncharacteristic) error when, in the process of searching for trace evidence, he detaches the phone cord from the wall (“Sod it, sod it, sod it!”).  Luckily, he’s also equipped with a Leatherman-type tool so he’s able to fix the phone (see? prepared!) just in time to receive a warning from Reid that Stone’s on his way back.  Brennan is delightfully annoyed at having to cut his B&E short (“Yes, yes, I’m going!” he hisses), barely having time to gather a few fragments of dried blood from the carpet padding and get out of the house before Stone arrives.  Luckily for Brennan, Stone’s so distracted by yet another vision of Poltergeist Lucia (in her car this time) that he completely misses seeing his boss standing outside his house, carrying an evidence bag and still wearing latex gloves – not that that’s suspicious in any way.

Brennan has the fragments analyzed and Reid brings the news that they’re confirmed to be blood – not Stone’s.  However, it seems that Brennan still hasn’t quite made up his mind about the entire thing as he puts Reid on the hot seat again, asking if he loved Lucia or if it was “just sex”.  Reid answers that it was love, then asks Brennan why he’s asking (oh, come on, Reid!);  Brennan simply replies wordlessly with a perfect, knowing look (oh, come on, Reid!).  Stone might be behaving like a madman, but that doesn’t mean Brennan has ruled Reid out entirely as a suspect in Lucia’s possible murder.

Under Arrest

And Stone is indeed working like a madman, gathering information about  West’s unique, unalterable traits, such as colourblindness and a nut allergy. He brings a list of these traits to Jenna, asking her to try Dean out on them if she wants to prove to herself that he’s really West.  He also warns her that if she’s pregnant she’s in even more danger, because Dean/West won’t want to leave any sort of DNA trace behind him that could confirm his identity.  However, Stone is interrupted by Brennan and Reid, who’ve come to arrest him for Lucia’s murder after the blood traces (which I guess are somehow admissible despite Brennan not having a warrant?) turn out to be hers.

Interrogating Stone without a lawyer present, tsk tsk!

Interrogating Stone without a lawyer present,
tsk tsk!

A despairing Stone is locked up, still avowing his innocence.  Brennan and Reid drop by to interrogate him (without a lawyer present, tsk tsk!) and things begin to look even more damning when Brennan presents phone and bank records that seem to show everything Stone said about Lucia’s leaving him (that she cleaned out their account and phoned him from France) was a lie.  At first Stone can’t explain it, but then he suspects Dean, a computer expert, of having hacked his records.  Unfortunately, he can’t prove it with the originals because they’ve been stolen, he thinks by Dean.  He admits to Brennan that he didn’t report the theft because he’d been receiving visits from Poltergeist Lucia and (unhinged as he was) thought he might have imagined the whole thing.  None of this bodes well.

Searching for Lucia

Always be prepared

Always be prepared

Indeed, Stone’s recollection of the night Lucia ran away is so hazy that he’s unable to supply much in the way of concrete information.  Reid tries to jostle his memory by (unconvincingly) playing Good Cop, begging Stone to tell him where Lucia’s body is.  The Good Cop routine quickly devolves into a physical attack, and Reid’s emotional reaction tips off a shocked Stone that he was the other party in Lucia’s affair.  However, Brennan intervenes before the situation can get too ugly, tossing Reid out of Stone’s cell with a no-nonsense, forceful “OUT.  NOW.”  It’s a lovely little dominance battle that Brennan handily wins, and I also got the impression he didn’t exactly sanction Reid’s little ploy.   But the shock of Reid’s revelation seems to bring forth the last missing piece of Stone’s memory of that night.  He agrees to help search for Lucia’s remains, leading Brennan, Reid, and a search party into the woods behind his house.  The ever-well-equipped Brennan sports a pair of wellies with his business suit for the occasion, a combination that is just so delightful in its simultaneous elegance and efficiency that I can’t even describe it.  😉  He’s not sure what he might find, but he’s ready for it!

Exoneration

As it turns out, there’s nothing to find because (spoiler alert!) Lucia’s been alive all this time; she turns up at the search and exonerates Stone completely.  It really was her playing poltergeist in the house, she didn’t reveal herself because she was worried about Stone’s reaction to her return.  And she confirms for Brennan that after booking a ferry ticket under her own name (does this mean Reid is incompetent at searching for info?), she phoned Stone from France and cleaned out their bank account, affirming Stone’s theory that Dean altered his phone and bank records.  As for the state of their marriage, she tells Stone her affair with Reid was a mistake she now regrets (take that, Reid!) and she’s realized she can’t run away from her problems.  For his part, Reid offers Stone a belated, lame not-pology (“Whatever I suspected, I hope you know I thought I was doing the right thing,” ie. sorry I thought you were an insane murderer and chucked you in jail), and gazes at Lucia in a “what now?” sort of way, but we’re pretty sure she’s made up her mind to go back to Stone.   We’re also sure Reid will enjoy his transfer to somewhere less nice.  😉

Testing for Identity

Meanwhile, Stone’s warnings have finally sunk in and Jenna decides to suss out Dean’s true identity by testing for Paul West’s unique traits:  his nut allergy, colourblindness, and fondness for the Pretenders (really?? okay).  She sets everything up in a romantic dinner; Dean has no problems eating peanuts mixed into his food, even though he brings the wrong colour of napkins (colourblind, remember) and sings along to (ironically enough) “I’ll Stand by You“, so he passes one out of three.  Highly scientific tests, these.  However, it’s enough for Jenna to believe she’s got conclusive proof he isn’t Paul West (he still seems mega-creepy to me) and she’s so happy about it that she agrees to a romantic sailboat cruise with him to celebrate.  What could possibly go wrong?

Rescue at Sea

To the rescue!

To the rescue!

The trip seems to be proceeding normally and everything is going well… until Jenna adjusts the bilge pump and discovers a hidden stash of passports and cash.  She abruptly realizes (spoiler alert!)  that everything Stone was trying to tell her about Dean is true.   He’s arranged a bankroll and an alias for himself, and has taken her on this cruise intending to drown her and cash in on the life insurance money.  True love is dead and he lied while singing to the Pretenders!  Unsure what to do, Jenna pockets the stash, but Dean quickly discovers it’s missing and that his jig is up.  Having nothing left to hide, he turns the Creepy up to eleven and begins stalking Jenna all over the boat, monologuing his plans (as all good villains do).  As it turns out, it’s pistachios he’s allergic to, not peanuts (curse Stone’s inadequate research!) and he’s been worried the colourblindness thing would trip him up one day.  Jenna protests that she loves him and she’s pregnant with his baby, but being a psychopath, he doesn’t care in the slightest.  He’s far more interested in being able to take up a new life at whim, leaving nothing behind – including her.  But before he can carry out his plans, he’s interrupted by the timely arrival of Brennan and Stone, who’ve managed to track their boat.  Dean and Stone have a brief but enthusiastic fight before Dean jumps overboard, saying, “See ya, Mac… it’s been fun!”  He’s presumed drowned and realistically, he should be, but y’know… villain.  The last shot is of a mulleted and bearded Dean romancing a woman at a tropical resort somewhere, now calling himself “Mac Stone”.  Ooooo, identity theft!  Guess he liked the way the name sounded.

This was a pleasingly densely plotted, enjoyable movie with a solid cast, with John Hannah’s Mackenzie Stone shouldering the bulk of the action and doing a great job portraying a man dissolving into obsession and instability.  Anthony Calf was also good as the incredibly creepy John Dean, as was Jemma Redgrave as the entirely too trusting Jenna.  But I particularly enjoyed Patrick Malahide as D.I. Brennan; he was an undeniably strong, reassuring presence.  He had great chemistry with Hannah and their scenes together were fascinating to watch.  Mind you, I was equally fascinated watching him pull rank on Brendan Coyle’s Reid.  😉  I think I’d enjoy an entire series of nothing but Brennan. Malahide portrayed him as calm in the face of an utter mess, extremely competent, capable, and something of a diplomat when it came to dealing with the war between his D.S. and D.C.   However, he could also play hardball and administer a smackdown when he had to – his dominance battles with Reid were extremely well done.   Plotwise, I liked the way Malahide played Brennan as possibly swaying towards believing Stone’s guilt, showing just a bit of uncertainty here and there, but waiting until he had all of the evidence in hand before making up his mind.  And his über-preparedness for nearly every situation was truly a delight to behold; I bet he has the best equipped and tidiest car boot ever.  If he didn’t want to continue as a D.I., he’d make an excellent cat burglar.  It was also interesting to contrast Malahide’s portrayal of Brennan with a similar but different role, the somewhat more bumbling and self-important Gardaí Commissioner Daly in “Ordinary Decent Criminal“.  I think Brennan was the better-written role, offering a lot more opportunity for nuance and subtlety, and just more enjoyable to watch.

You can view a clip from “Amnesia” below, courtesy of fearless Admin (thanks! 🙂 ), or scroll down for a gallery.

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