Alone and trapped in a locked-down hospital, an injured young woman must escape a pair of vicious killers who are after the only piece of evidence that can implicate them in a grisly murder, the bullet in her leg.
Massive spoilers below! Scroll down to the end…
Trauma Centre is being pushed as a Bruce Willis movie, though really it’s a movie with Bruce Willis in it.
There are many Bruce Willisisms, if that’s a word, tropes we recognise from his own films and from generic straight-to-video white label thrillers.
An injured protagonist is stuck up high in a building, alone, stalked by gunmen who want them dead, with seemingly no way out.
There’s some self-operating and self-stitching, without anaesthetic. Whatever can be found has to be utilised if they’re to get out alive.
Despite all this, Willis’s character Det. Wakes is still a shadowy, on-the-sidelines presence. Luckily that doesn’t really matter as Nicky Whelan, who plays heroine Madison Taylor, is impressive enough to carry, and indeed elevate, this thin movie.
She’s shocked into doing practically nothing when her nightmare begins, before her growing resourcefulness, tempered by pain and unfamiliarity with her surroundings, helps her to fight back.
Trauma Centre is set in Pueto Rico, where Madison works in a cafe and looks after her teenage sister Emily. Their mother’s death after a car accident has led to Madison’s thorough dislike of hospitals, the underlying reason she returns to work when Emily is kept in overnight after an asthma attack.
Later, putting out the rubbish at home, Madison is shot by mistake by fleeing gunmen.
Back at the same hospital she’s treated for a bullet in the thigh, though she’s also told it can’t be removed until the following day.
Wakes ensures she’s placed in an isolation ward on an empty floor higher up, guarded by a cop, in case her attackers come back to finish the job.
And come for her they do, not just to finish off a witness but to remove the ballistics evidence from her leg. I know, ouch.
Her guard, the sweet Officer Jacobs, doesn’t last long. This is a film that doesn’t stint on violence as two very dodgy Vice cops, Tull (Texas Battle) and Pierce (Tito Ortiz), come for Maddie, only for them – and Maddie – to discover that she’s not such a walkover after all, despite only having one properly-working leg.
There’s an acute sense of being cut off from the rest of the world, and the rest of the hospital, as we see life as usual going on below. And it turns out escape isn’t as simple as hailing a stranger you come across on your floor, or getting down the building.
Trapped in a scrubs room, Maddie has nowhere to run with both men outside the door. They say they’re police, which is actually true, and it’s agonising as one tries to persuade her they’re the good guys, for a bit anyway.
She gets them with the oldest trick in the book, and they give up pretending. “What I want is not you, it’s in you” says Tull.
Wakes, whose police partner has been killed along with an informant, is stuck on the outside; but that part of the story, and the related departmental corruption, stays in the background with him.
Back in the hospital, several times all seems hopeless, only for Maddie to spot something useful and find the energy to use it, even as she weakens and blood oozes from her. She’s a bright and quick-witted heroine, without being superwoman, if distractingly similar in looks to a young Cameron Diaz.
But despite Whelan’s sterling work there’s not much to Trauma Centre; it certainly won’t leave you traumatised, though you may feel rather bored.
You’ll have seen a lot of it before, and while genre tropes can, in the right movie, be enjoyable, this isn’t it.
It’s not a washout, and for a low budget thriller trying to maximise its limited resources, it’s serviceable enough. But even a tense stalking situation in a stainless steel service kitchen just reminded me of Jurassic Park without the dinosaurs or annoying children.
Whelan’s far more experienced co-stars don’t look to be putting much effort in either. Willis seems so sleepily distracted it’s actually best that he’s mostly absent.
And he isn’t the only fading star in the trauma centre. Steve Guttenberg plays a friendly hospital doctor, already known to Maddie. Unfortunately he has little to do while bookending the actual action, apart to add some now-minor star power to the cast list.
Trauma Centre only just has legs (sorry) for its 87 minute runtime. All credit to Whelan, who is consistently watchable throughout.
TRAUMA CENTRE IS AVAILBLE FROM:
Emily, Madison’s sister, is in hospital after an asthma attack. Madison hates hospitals since her mother died, and so decides not to stay but to go home. Putting the rubbish out that night she is caught in the crossfire when two dodgy Vice cops, Pierce and Tull, shoot dead Detective Tony Martin, Lt Wakes’ partner. Tony is there because of a set up; he thinks he’s meeting their informant.
Maddie is shot in the leg, and is taken to the same hospital as her sister where she’s kept on the isolation floor with a police guard, Officer Jacobs, because Wakes is concerned her assailants might come after her.
Jacobs is killed by Pierce and Tull who then lock the stairways and disable the switchboard and alarm system. Maddie, in her hospital room, discovers her landline doesn’t work. She pulls out the tubes in her arms and goes into the corridor, but Officer Jacobs isn’t there. She hides from the two men and ends up in a small room which she locks. They try to persuade her they are the good guys but she tests them by talking about Officer Davidson rather than Officer Jacobs. They fall for it and Pierce starts breaking the door down with an axe. She electrocutes him with hospital equipment and escapes through a ceiling hatch.
Eventually after a run in with an ordlerly, she ends up in the massive empty kitchens; she’s found by a cop, and begs for help, but he’s shot by the two men. Seeing a notice saying the area is protected by a halon fire system, Maddie lets the gas off. Tull manages to drag Pierce away; Maddie then finds a memory card on the floor.
The two men find the dead cop and realise Maddie has taken his keys – Tull also realises he’s lost the memory card ands she just have it.
Maddie makes it to the morgue and pretends to be a dead body under a sheet when a member of staff comes in – presumably she doesn’t know it’s not one of the cops. She then stitches up her own her leg with no anaesthetic and freshly bandages it, and uses a computer in the morgue to check out the memory card – it contains incriminating footage of Pierce and Tull.
She calls Lt Wakes from the morgue landline giving him the names of the cops tracking her, which she’s got from the video footage. Wakes tells her to stay put as he’s on his way, but she says she has to find her sister.
Two more shooters come after Wakes outside and he kills them – it’s more Vice cops, so Wakes realises the whole department is implicated and requests more units to go to hospital.
Tull broadcasts to Maddie that he is with her sister, who thinks they’re just police. Pierce then finds Maddie. He drags her along as she has flashbacks to her mum dying in hospital. Maddie wakes up tied to a gurney with Pierce and Tull using defibrillators to make her wake up. Tull tells her she was shot with Pierce’s service weapon, meaning the bullet in her leg ties them to the crime scene – they need the bullet out of her leg. He also tells her he needs the video memory card. She tells them she’s called the police.
Wakes arrives at hospital and is told that the “other cops” (Pierce and Tull) told them Maddie was the shooting suspect and they’ve closed off the floors. Pierce tortures her with the defibrillators while Tull goes to get Emily. He then calls Pierce and tells him to stop, as Wakes is onto them and they need to get out. Maddie uses Pierce’s knife, which he has stuck in the wall, to escape the plastic ties, then sprays then electrocutes him, leaving him squirming and foaming at the mouth on the floor. She tells Tull she’s on her way.
Tull takes Emily hostage but Wakes find them and threatens to shoot him unless Emily is released. He does so and she runs off; the two men fight on the floor before Wakes manages to shoot Tull dead.
Emily finds Maddie but as they try to escape the lift opens and Pierce is outside. They push him into the lift and stagger off but he chases them and grabs Emily. Maddie gestures to Emily’s pocket and Emily removes her nebuliser and uses it to squirt Pierce in the face. While he is disorientated Maddie shoots him dead.
Lt Wakes arrives and tells her he told her she’d make it – she shows him the memory card hidden in her ankle sock. He goes for help, while Emily and Maddie sit together on the floor.