Troubled Waters (2006)


Canada. 2006.


Director – John Stead, Screenplay – David Robbeson, Producers – Patrick Cameron, Harvey Glazer & Robert Wilson, Photography (colour + some scenes b&w) – Brett Van Dyke, Music – Eric Cadesky & Nick Dyer, Visual Effects Consultant – Brian Irving, Visual Effects – Alphachannel FX (Supervisor – Paul Brogren) & Elliott FX Inc., Special Effects Supervisor – Max MacDonald, Makeup Effects Supervisor – Randy Daudlin, Production Design – Jonathan Dueck. Production Company – TW Films Inc


Jennifer Beals (Agent Beck), Jonathan Goad (Agent Andy Hunt), David Storch (Mike Waters), Stuart Hughes (Ben Tomlinson), Shaunia Black (Julia Waters), Sharon Lewis (Agent Tina Davis), Olivia Ballantyne (Megan Waters)


FBI Agent Beck and her partner Andy Hunt are assigned to the case of missing child Megan Waters. Megan is the daughter of Mike Waters, whose IT firm is about to go public and become worth a great deal of money. Beck has been suffering from headaches again. When these come, she gains glimpses of things that have happened after she touches various objects. Following the psychic flashes she receives, Beck becomes certain that Megan has been abducted. In their investigation, they realise that the one behind the abduction is Mike’s business partner Ben Tomlinson who has been having an affair with Mike’s wife Julia. As becomes apparent, Ben and Julia hired someone to kill Mike – but they realise that the killer is operating by his own agenda and has abducted Megan.

Troubled Waters is a film that appears to have been made for theatrical release in Canada. It is not known if it ever was released to theatres; it has certainly earned no distinction anywhere. I found it while dredging the backwaters of cable channels in the wee hours of the morning. There is, one readily finds out, good reason why Troubled Waters holds such an undistinguished reputation – there is little about it is that is memorable. The only recognisable name that the film has on board is that of the lovely Jennifer Beals, an actress who has, with the exception of tv’s The L Word (2004-9), been on screen far too little since at least the early 1990s.

Largely, Troubled Waters is a detective story about the search for a missing child. The plot throws various complications on the situation – the husband’s business partner and his wife are having an affair and hired a hitman to bump him off, the scheme going wrong as the hitman starts blackmailing them. Added to the mix is Jennifer Beals’ FBI agent who has psychic powers – that is to say she is a psychometrist and is able to read impressions from anything she touches. (In a major plotting convenience, it appears that the only things she is able to pick up are clues about the case, as opposed to say what her partner, neighbour or the person who sat in the seat before her might have done).

The great disappointment about this is the utterly predictable way that everything transpires. The detective story never holds one gripped in suspense, nor surprises with any of its twists and revelations. [PLOT SPOILERS]. You can easily see the big revelation about the identity of the abductor/assassin coming. Once it becomes apparent that this is something that has been arranged by Mike, the plot starts to seem incredibly manipulative. Everything has been set up to mislead us into thinking that Ben is engaged in the abduction whereas in fact he is the dupe. If Jennifer Beals keeps getting flashes that point in the direction of Ben then why are her flashes so blind (or selective) that they fail to lead in the direction of Mike as well?

From a genre perspective, Troubled Waters is frustrating. It falls into a mini-genre of clairvoyant murder mysteries that includes films like Baffled! (1972), The Eyes of Charles Sand (1972), Visions (1972), Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), Double Exposure (1981), Cassandra (1987), Fear (1990), Sensation (1994), Hideaway (1995), A Deadly Vision (1997), After Alice (1999), In Dreams (1999), The Gift (2000), Murder Scene (2000), Empathy (2007), The Cell 2 (2009), Let Me Die Quietly (2009) and In/Sight (2011). Indeed, Jennifer Beals had gone through the clairvoyant murder mystery plot before in Dead On Sight (1994). (For a more detailed overview see Films About Clairvoyance and Precognition). In all of these, the clairvoyance has no more of a role than say Sherlock Holmes’s deductive skills and is certainly never explored beyond gleaning the clues that are necessary to solving the central mystery. This is doubly frustrating in the case of Troubled Waters where the information gained from Jennifer Beals’ psychic flashes could have been rewritten as ordinary investigative legwork with zero effort.

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