Hidden In Plain Sight – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: A woman fakes her death to get away from her abusive ex-boyfriend. She moves to a small town with her young son in an attempt to disappear. Her ex-boyfriend believes she is still alive and searches for her.

Is it any good?: Hidden In Plain Sight is made-for-television nonsense and Sleeping With The Enemy lite. The acting is uneven, the script plodding and dull and the music is louder than the dialogue much of the time. Told with intermittent flashbacks, Hidden In Plain Sight is a drag of a film and a chore to watch whilst one struggles to hear the dialogue.

Spoiler territory: Katie (Victoria Barabas) is frightened, running through the woods. She is being chased by Nick (Gino Anthony Pesi). Katie is carrying an axe. Nick is close and Katie trips – of course, she does – and drops the axe. Nick gratefully picks up the axe. Katie cowers as Nick swings the axe.

A week earlier, Katie, who has changed her name to Anna, is working in a restaurant/eatery as a waitress. Her shift is about to end and she is chatting with her friend, Chloe (Jessica Meraz), who works with her. Looking forward to leaving, Anna’s joy is short-lived as a handsome stranger comes into the restaurant and sits down.

Anna approaches him, handing him a menu. The man, Lucas (Jake Allyn), tells her he recognises her from the gym. Anna, not wanting to engage in small talk, shut him down. Undeterred, Lucas asks her out because…it’s in the script. She turns him down. Surprise.

Later, Anna is out with Chloe, Chloe’s boyfriend, Leon (Jerod Meagher), Leon’s daughter, Kayla – not good enough for a credit -, and her son, Danny (Jack Fisher). They are all at the bowling alley. As Leon and the kids’ bowl, the two women ignore the Bechdel test with Chloe asking about Lucas and why Anna didn’t drop her panties for him as he was cute.

Anna points out that Danny is her priority. Chloe asks if she even wants a boyfriend as though it was the most important thing in life. What about sex? Anna tells her that perhaps she should go out with him. Chloe points out she has a boyfriend.

The next day, as Anna is preparing for work and going to drop Danny to school, she finds the boy a little melancholy. Kayla thought it strange that Danny didn’t have a father. His mother works at a restaurant, so he is not homeschooled. Had he not noticed that most of the other kids at school had fathers? Anyhoo, dopey Danny laments about this to his mother.

Anna tells him that his father is in the military and that he is on a secret mission which is why he never calls. Why she didn’t just tell him he was dead was anybody’s guess but she goes with the ‘secret agent’ story. She tells dimwitted Danny that she has a complex relationship with his father. He asks her if she misses him. She tells him no but she misses the life she had before she met him. That life was also pre-dummy Danny, so how to lowkey destroy your child psychologically.

Eight years earlier, pre-Anna is Katie and working in at an art gallery. She is still serving but has a bad fringe, a nice dress and better make-up. She puts one glass of champagne on a tray and is instantly attracted by the back of a man’s head across the room. It is Nick. He is standing looking at an abstract painting. He notices her and gives her an ‘approach me’ stare. It works because she immediately makes a beeline for him with the singular flute of champagne.

Katie asks him if he likes the painting. He does. She explains that she is only an assistant but she can introduce him to the gallery owner. He tells her that he would like her opinion on the painting. She tells him about the artist’s journey and how it is inspirational. Nick doesn’t care. He’s just being smooth. He asks for her help in picking a painting.

He buys a painting, on Katie’s advice. Which she brings out to him. She asks him where he plans to hang it. He tells her that he needs help with that as well and that gentleman is how you get a lady to come back to yours.

Back in Anna land, she drops Danny the dunce at school and gives her mother, Evelyn (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) a call. Evelyn notes that she has changed her number again. Anna says she is just being careful. Evelyn asks how Danny the dolt is, Anna mentions that he asked about his father. She tells her that she told him he was in the military. Evelyn warns that he will figure out that she is lying. She obviously has never met the genius that is Danny.

Evelyn asks when she is going to meet Danny – told you she hadn’t met him – Anna says she does not know. She has sent her a package with a new photo of dung-brain Danny. Evelyn goes to the post office box to pick up the package. She is seen by Nick who follows her. When she stops at a coffee shop, Nick surprises her by paying for her coffee.

The two talk about Katie/Anna. Nick apologises for not attending her memorial. He tells her he is engaged to be married but sometimes has a fantasy that Katie/Anna was still alive and she faked her death because she was such a clever woman. These people’s notion of cleverness is very narrow. Evelyn leaves the coffee shop. Nick scowls because he is the bad guy.

At work, Leon comes to see Chloe. Anna gets a call from her mother. Evelyn chats a lot of bollocks about missing her and wanting to drive down to see her. She casually mentions she ran into Nick. She thinks he has changed. The fact that her daughter felt the need to fake her death and change her identity and use burner phones completely forgotten.

Anna, not quite as dumb as her mother and child, wants to know what he said. Evelyn tells her that he is engaged to be married and seems changed. Anna does not buy it. She is sure that Nick must have followed her. She tells her that is why she never gave her her address – she knows her mother is as stupid as her son – it was also why she drove to the adjacent town to post her packages.

Anna remembers back when she was Katie, she was out to dinner with Nick. He always paid for the dinner with large bills, something she found amusing – I suppose different people get their giggles in different ways. She tells him she is not used to the high life. She asks him what he does for a living. He tells her he gives loans to people who get rejected by banks. A loan shark? No, it’s connected to real estate.

That’s good enough for bad fringe Katie. Nick changes the subject. He has got her a gift. He gives her a pair of diamond earrings. Katie is overwhelmed by the gift. It is too expensive. She gives them back to him. How rude! Katie feels the gift would make her somewhat obligated to him. She is only in her mid-twenties – hahahahahaha – and still wants to figure her life out.

Back at Nick’s place, they make love and Katie falls asleep. Nick is in the bathroom when a masked man (Rocky Abou-Sakher) comes and attacks Katie in the bed. He wants money. She screams for Nick. He comes and tackles the intruder, overwhelming him and strangling him with the cord of a hairdryer. Katie wants to call the police. Nick tells her not to.

Katie wants to know why she cannot call the police. Nick tells her he does not want to go back to prison. He tells her to get dressed and leave. He warns her not to tell anybody about what happened.

Nick shows up at Evelyn’s house. He sees a picture of Danny on Evelyn’s fridge. She tries to tell him that it is her godson. Nick is not a moron and does not believe her. The boy reminds him of himself as a boy. He asks Evelyn where his son is. She feigns ignorance even though she has already told him the boy’s name and age. Nick, proving what a cad he is, grabs her arm, looming over her.

Evelyn folds like a cheap deckchair vindicating her daughter’s decision not to trust her with her address and gives up the fact that she is somewhere up north. Nick takes the envelope with the photos.

At the restaurant, Lucas has returned, not at all deterred by his first encounter with Anna, to ask her out. Chloe, who is team Lucas even though she barely knows the man, volunteers to babysit the chosen child Danny, so as Lucas can go out Anna. A happy Anna leaves work to go and pick up Danny, the best kid ever, from school. She gets a call from her mother. She was right, Nick was following her.

She tells Anna that he took the envelope so knows the general area she lives in. Remembering another conversation when she was Katie, she had been confronted by Nick after ghosting him after the intruder incident. She does not want to see him anymore. He lied to her – he didn’t but okay – is he a gangster? She tells him they should not see one another anymore. Nick does not accept that.

Katie, who before her name change and fringe removal showed all the intelligence of a mop, threatens to go to the police. Nick tells her that he will destroy her life if she does and shows her a picture of her mother to prove it.

Back in the present, the wise one Danny has just got into the car. Anna asks him if he thinks he would like to move again. He immediately throws a strop. He won at dodgeball for the first time in his eight years on the planet and now she wants to move?! No. Back at home, Chloe turns up just after they get in.

Anna does not want to go out anymore and tells Chloe about her bad relationship with Nick. Chloe persuades her to go on the date with Lucas because – and he really should be paying her some sort of a commission – he is a good guy. She goes on the date. The date goes well even though Anna is evasive about lightbulb Danny’s father.

Do-it-all Danny is telling Chloe that he wants to meet his father. She tells him she never met hers until she was a teenager. A man is sneaking around outside the house. Chloe sends Danny do-good to his room and goes and investigates, kitchen knife at the ready. It turns out to be Leon. He had come to see her because she had not been returning his calls. He apologises for his flirtatiousness.

Later, Anna returns home. She and Chloe discuss how Anna will have to tell the later focused intellect that is Danny about what is going on. Chloe leaves and Anna goes to look in on her sleeping son. She remembers her distress at learning that she was pregnant. She disclosed her unwanted pregnancy news to Grace (Cherion Drakes), who worked at the gallery with her. She did not know what she was going to do to keep the news from Nick.

Grace tells her that she can get a new identity from Sergey (Bogdan Yesinski). Why Sergey would have told that he had a false identity is anyone’s guess but she tells Katie. Katie goes to see Sergey, a very gruff and taciturn Russian who seems to use watchmaking tools to forge documents. He needs her new name. Under duress, she comes up with the imaginative Anna Jones. Sergey makes the new documents.

The next day, a nervous Anna thinks she sees Nick coming into the restaurant. She picks up brainiac Danny from school after her shift. She is skittish for the rest of the day. The next day, Anna is late leaving to pick up Danny with the lightning mind. She gets to her car and finds she has a puncture. She calls the school to inform them she is running late.

Nick goes and finds he who cannot be fooled Danny waiting alone outside of the school. He tells him that he is his father. Danny the cerebellum, gets into the car. Chloe and Leon see Anna struggling to change her tyre. Leon offers to change it for her. Meanwhile, Nick, who is slicker than a snake oil salesman, bamboozles the mighty mind of Danny by buying him fast food.

Tyre changed, Anna screeches up to the school. Her son is gone. She still searches for him, banging on doors and accosting strangers as to his whereabouts. Nick takes his boy to a sketchy motel. The reception is an ornery old woman, Maggie (Eve Sigall). Nick deflects her inquiries about sharp Danny’s mother.

Anna returns home. She goes and hugs the Danny to rule them all pillow, crying. She doesn’t call the police. She gets a call from Nick. She threatens to call the police. A threat that has no effect whatsoever on Nick. Einstein Danny is allowed to speak with Anna. He doesn’t want to stay in the motel. He hasn’t got his toothbrush. Nick ends the call. He lays down the law to Danny, future Nobel Prize winner.

Anna gets a call from Lucas. Hearing she is in distress, he rushes over. They’ve been out twice. Anna tells him about her past and how she faked her death. She jumped off a bridge. Right. Lucas says that perhaps Nick just wants to get to know his son. Anna tells him that he is a dangerous criminal and was connected to a lot of murders but they could not make any of them stick.

Why that would preclude him from wanting to get to know his son I don’t know. Lucas persuades her to go to the police. She goes to report her son missing but decides against it at the last moment. She realises that her criminal record – fraud and credit card debt, plus faking her death – would probably get her in trouble. She returns home.

Danny – he actually does something intelligent – sneaks out of the motel room. He goes to Maggie at the front desk and calls his mother. Nick wakes up and realises he has gone and begins searching for him. Maggie gives Anna the address of the motel. Nick searches for Danny. Maggie does not help him but he realises that Danny was at the reception because his backpack is there.

Nick tries to threaten Maggie but she warns him she will call the police. He leaves and goes and bribes the housekeeper so as he can search the rooms. Anna and Lucas go to drive to the motel. Anna gets another call from Danny and wastes time talking to him. Nick is outside of the room Danny is hiding in. He goes into the room next door.

Anna and Lucas are racing to the motel. Danny escapes the room and hides by a vending machine. Anna arrives and they get Danny. Nick sees the car and runs after it but is stopped by Maggie pointing a shotgun at him. He disarms her easily and goes and gets his car. He goes after Anna.

Back at home, Anna tells Lucas that she is leaving. She tells Danny to get in the car but Nick arrives and blocks her car in. Anna tells Danny to go back into the house. In the house, she tells him to go to his bedroom and lock the door. She goes back outside and eyeballs Nick so that he chases her. She grabs an axe. It is the scene from the opening of the film. After she has fallen over and Nick is about to kill her with the axe because she is thought to be dead by the wider world, Lucas – yay! – dives in to save the day.

Lucas and Nick scuffle and Lucas goes to pull out a gun but Nick pushes him into a tree and he falls unconscious, dropping the gun. Nick picks up the axe to kill Lucas but Anna picks up the gun. Nick turns to face her. He tells her that she is too good a person to shoot him. She shoots him in the chest. She shoots him again on the ground to make sure he is dead.

An unspecified time later, with no consequences for the murder, Anna goes to see her mother and introduces her to her grandson and Lucas. They all go to eat. The end.

Final thoughts: Hidden in Plain Sight is rubbish. The story is lazy and poorly written, the script bollocks and the suspense non-existent. The acting is okay, especially given the material they had to work with but even by mad-for-television standards, this film is bad. Written by Jed Seidel and directed by Stacia Crawford, Hidden in Plain Sight is eighty-seven minutes of nonsense.

It is not unwatchable but you might have to watch it with subtitles as the standard made-for-television, atmospheric music, is cranked up to eleven, making some of the dialogue difficult to hear. There are a few nice directorial touches from Crawford but not enough to save this turd. Avoid.

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