Quid Pro Quo is the directorial debut of Carlos Brooks, and the result shows the promise of a deft ability to create intrigue and suspense—confounded by a profound ineptitude at taking it anywhere. A quasi-psychological thriller based around the subculture of "wannabes" who identify as, or wish to be, disabled, it completely sidesteps any real explanation of its own premise in favor of directional switcheroos—from a sensationalized, X-Files-ish look into a mysterious underground, to an offbeat romance, to a ridiculous story about magic shoes, to—in its final throes—a rapid, last-ditch firing of plot twists. The result is a frustrating blue-ball effect—Quid Pro Quo arouses a lot of interests, but it satisfies none of them.

The protagonist is Isaac (Nick Stahl), a handsome young radio reporter who has been paraplegic since the age of eight, thanks to a car crash that left both of his parents dead. Isaac receives an anonymous tip about a man who supposedly bribed a doctor to cut off his leg, and the tipper ends up being a babe played by Vera Farmiga. (In case you are wondering, as Isaac says in a voiceover, he can, and does, have sex.) Soon after they make each other's acquaintance, Quid Pro Quo's plot begins to go off the rails, amassing its tangle of unfinished threads.

Perhaps the single most annoying aspect of Quid Pro Quo is that I learned more about "transabled" culture from page one of a Google search than I did during all 82 minutes of Brooks' film, and he's admitted in at least one interview that he never actually spoke with a wannabe. Despite a good-looking handle on mood and an ability to coax out interesting and complex characters, Brooks is maddeningly sloppy—I'm keeping an eye on him, but a wary one.