Thursday, August 9, 2012

Abysmal Thriller That Is Lacking In Psychological Horror Is Anything But Twisted

The Good: Moments of Samuel L. Jackson's performance, Ultimate resolution
The Bad: Acting, Characters, Most of the plot, Neatness of all the pieces coming together
The Basics: In a truly terrible psychological thriller that is anything but thrilling, Ashley Judd runs around investigating a series of murders she may have committed, but the audience doesn't care about.

When I sat down recently to watch the thriller Red Eye, I was marginally excited about the movie because of the presence of actor Cillian Murphy. When I came across Twisted today, I was surprised to find a movie with Samuel L. Jackson that I had not even heard about. Then again, as an episode of Family Guy noted, there was a time Samuel L. Jackson was in everything. Sadly, Twisted failed to sell itself even with the accomplished actor as one of the three leads.

Jessica Shepard has just been promoted to homicide detective in San Francisco, despite her use of force on a recent suspect. Her foster father, the police commissioner, John is proud of her, but sends her to the department shrink anyway - a necessity in most cases where there is significant violence or trauma. Shepard attends, joins the homicide squad and meets her new partner, Mike Delmarco. Her first case is finding the killer of a man who she recently had anonymous sex with. She believes that there will be more victims and her hunch soon proves correct as another past partner turns up brutally murdered. As the body count grows, Shepard begins to become more and more concerned that she might be capable of the grizzly murders and she sets to finding the killer, even if it is herself.

Twisted fails almost right from the beginning because of the premise it expects the audience to accepts; Shepard is the daughter of a former police officer-turned-serial-killer working under the guy who partnered with him and who brought him down. And who was his father. Medical shows more often than not get it right with issues like this where a doctor cannot have a family member as a patient. Parents who have children who are cops are usually forced to work outside the jurisdiction of the parent.

But then there are those other, more pressing character conflicts. Shepard is an excellent cop, but she leaves work each night, gets completely drunk, has anonymous sex and blacks out. Or she simply drinks so much she blacks out. Under these circumstances, why wouldn't she stop drinking? Or better yet, why doesn't the department relieve her when she comes up as a suspect? Sure, the movie answers that question, but it's a feeble answer and none of the major characters challenge the stated reasoning.

There's an even simpler set of options; when she becomes a suspect, why don't they give her an ankle bracelet to wear and put her under house arrest? Or even just put a police tail on her. That last option is the most simple, direct and logical one for a precinct to do and given how often the Internal Affairs Department popped up on NYPD Blue, it's astounding that they don't show up here when a police officer is the prime suspect in a series of murders.

But that's why Twisted does not work. It's asking the viewer to stomach a lot of pretty ridiculous assumptions. At least when I write that one possible interpretation of the movie is that writer Sarah Thorp wants to illustrate some real negative consequences of having promiscuous, anonymous sex; her script utilizes Shepard's sexual promiscuity as a character weakness to be exploited and a reason that she begins to degenerate into madness. No free love for Thorp! I'm not into that sort of thing, but in the case of Twisted, it just seems like such a convenient scapegoat to brand Shepard with.

Unlike Shepard who has something that can be looked at, analyzed and debated none of the other characters have any real character. Shepard's new partner, Mike, is completely flat and his place in the movie revolves almost completely around Shepard. Similarly, Shepard's new police adversary in Homicide, Becker, is just a "type" - the antagonist figure. As for John Mills, Shepard's foster father, all of his motivations are simply stated at the end, with no true and genuine development throughout the movie. Instead, he simply explains to Shepard and the audience why he took in his dead partner's daughter.

It's not enough of a role for even Samuel L. Jackson to save and he doesn't. Twisted is an example of a role that even a great actor cannot do anything with. As a result, Jackson adds no flare or charisma to John. His entire time on screen, he is simply reciting lines and his performance feels like that.

Other performers suffer as well. Camryn Manheim illustrates none of the genius that she exhibited on The Practice with the bit role she has as a lab technician. In fact, she might not have even gotten out of her chair for the role. Andy Garcia, who play's Shepard's new partner, Mike, is very flat in the role. Director Philip Kaufman could have saved some money and used Ray Abruzzo and gotten at least as good results.

But much of the movie rests on the shoulders of Ashley Judd, who plays Shepard (and looks a lot like Nicole de Boer in this film!). Judd disappoints, adding no flair to Shepard. Her character's sex is dull and Judd looks bored throughout those scenes, but even worse, her affect is terrible when her character begins to make the connections and comes to believe that she might well be a killer. Judd fails to emote and she is certainly not empathetic as Shepard, making much of the movie unbearable to watch.

The best part about this DVD experience was also one of the most simple; when the disc booted up, it gave me the option of watching the previews or going to the main menu. Unlike most discs lately which simply launches into the previews, this one gives the viewer a choice. I should have cut my losses while I was ahead and simply watched the previews and skipped the feature. You need not make the same mistake as I!

For other works with Ashley Judd, check out my reviews of:
Star Trek: The Next Generation - “Darmok”
Star Trek: The Next Generation - “The Game”
Someone Like You
The Tooth Fairy


For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment