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.
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.