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Netflix has made itself a major player in the movie industry in recent years. Whether it's wooing top talent like Will Smith or Marten Scorsese, or making Oscar caliber productions like Alfonso Cuarón's Roma, it's clear the streaming service wants to be taken seriously. However, just like most great actors or directors have, on occasion, made a bad movie, no movie distributor is going to only produce high quality, high value content. Sometimes it's going to make schlock.
You expect a movie with a name like Secret Obsession from Netflix to be found as a TV movie of the week circa 1991 or perhaps a late night offering on Cinemax, depending on how much skin is involved. For the record, anybody hoping for a Cinemax-like offering will be disappointed. This is strictly movie of the week territory from writer/director Peter Sullivan, who has produced an absolute torrent of Made-For-TV movies in recent years, mostly for Lifetime or The Hallmark Channel. If there's a silver lining to Secret Obsession, on Netflix, you can now get the same content without commercials.
As Secret Obsession opens, Jennifer Williams (Brenda Song) is on the run. Somebody is chasing her through the darkness and the rain. We never see their face, but they have a knife and Jennifer is clearly terrified. Making a last ditch run for her life, Jennifer is hit by a car and rushed to the emergency room. There, her husband Russell (Mike Vogel) arrives to find that a head injury from the accident has left Jennifer with significant amnesia. She remembers her own name and other pieces of vital information, but what led to the accident, or who Russell is, is completely lost to her.
The couple retreats to their mountain cabin in Northern California while police detective Frank Page (Dennis Haysbert) attempts to figure out what led to Jennifer's accident. Surprise, things are not quite what they seem.
You can probably figure out where things are going, and if you've seen the trailer then you know it doesn't bother to hide anything. Which is not to say that even if you haven't figured out the plot from that brief synopsis, you'll likely have things figured out fairly early into actually watching Secret Obsession.
I wouldn't normally be down a movie for being so cheaply put together; sometimes great things happen from budget constraints, but it actually does a disservice for this film. Beyond the three main characters mentioned above, there are basically only two other speaking roles of note in the entire movie and almost the entire film takes place in a single location, where only two characters spend any time. It's difficult to have a great deal of suspense when there can only ever be one solution to the mystery.
The movie does try to setup another possible source of the threat to Jennifer... for about 15 minutes. Then the movie seems to get bored of the idea and does away with it.
It's obvious enough where things are going that you just wish the movie would get there and reveal the danger that Jennifer is in so we can get to the running and the chasing, but you have to wait through about half the movie to even confirm that what you've known for an hour was going to happen is actually happening.
This wouldn't be so bad if the characters were worth spending any time with or investing in, but they're not. They are paper thin caricatures. Haysbert's police detective character is given a single piece of backstory in place of any character development. That backstory is utterly irrelevant to the plot of this movie. Still, that's one piece more than either of the two leads are given.
Secret Obsession is the sort of movie that gets called a "guilty pleasure." There's a reason these paper thin suspense movies have been made so quickly and cheaply over and over again. There is an audience for them. If you are that audience, then you'll likely revel in Secret Obsession. It's going to fill out your suspense thriller movie trope bingo card nicely. Brenda Song does a fine job looking terrified for most of the movie. Mike Vogel's generic, unexplained, obsessive character spouts every cliche ever uttered by a generic unexplained, obsessive character.
If you can cut loose and not think too hard, there's probably some silly fun to be had with Secret Obsession. Some of the leaps of logic the movie makes are insane and the ways in which the plot is driven forward are absolutely laughable. This isn't "so bad it's good." It's bad, but maybe good enough for a quiet night in...with an entire bottle of red wine.
Secret Obsession might be a brand new movie, but if feels utterly dated. Perhaps the script has been sitting in a drawer since the heyday of these sorts of films. The plot conveniently makes any modern technology unavailable, as it would break the story instantly. Perhaps simply updating the tropes to work around such advances would have at least made something slightly more interesting to watch. The idea of making a movie that feels so obviously like a throwback to a bygone era isn't new, but does anybody really look back on these movies fondly?