Harley Wallen has been a busy boy.  He has directed five movies in 2019, as well as racking up a few  credits as an actor, writer and producer. You can read our review of last year’s Eternal Code here.  He’s done horror, mystery and action. Now he brings us action with Abstruse.  The film stars the legendary Tom Sizemore, Dennis Haskins (yes, Mr. Belding from Saved by the Bell). Kati Wallen, and Jessika Johnson.  Kris Reilly.

Reilly plays Justin, the son of  Senator Stevens (Haskins). He and a friend convince two young women to star in a porno with him and another man. The women go along with the plan but things take a dark turn when Justin murders Mindy (Johnson).  The other girl, Amanda (Kaiti Wallen) goes to the police, but in a twist when the cops show up at Justin’s door there is no evidence of any crime. In fact, there isn’t even a trace of the previous night’s party. It’s all been wiped clean.

There is some question of if she hallucinated the entire thing, but really that never plays. The audience knows what this is, and we know that there is no way a powerful Senator is introduced without becoming an engine of the plot. This is a cover-up.

Amanda’s father, an ex-con names Max (Sizemore) launches his own investigation.  He’s going to have to get to the bottom of the mystery by going all the way to the top. 

The film is lifted by a great cast. Sizemore is, as always, committed. It doesn’t seem to matter to him whether he’s in a $100M epic or a $2M direct to VOD movie. Sizemore treats every role like it will define his career, and that really matters.

Haskins is surprising . He is mostly known as the slightly bumbling foil for Zack Morris in Saved by the Bell. Here he proves that he can carry himself like a man of power. 

Kaiti Wallen is the wifeof the director. That  is often a bad sign, but here she works.  She manages the right tone for the material and never seems out of her depth.

Once Abstruse gets going it moves fast. It’s an action packed, slightly skewed noir. The problem is that “once it gets going” disclaimer.  The murder that is the inciting incident of the film takes place over thirty minutes into the run time.  Prior to that a lot of viewers might check out. Up until then we are largely watching unpleasant people be unpleasant with only the hope that the action to come will be worth it. I feel like Wallen should have gone back to the editing room to trim the opening down to the essential ten minutes or so. But, having said that, once we get past that slow opening Abstruse really ramps the action and the thrills. It’s worth the wait.