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Movie Review: Perfect Stranger

Perfect Stranger
Directed by James Foley
Written by Todd Komarnicki based on a story by Jon Bokenkamp

Like most men, I’d do Halle Berry.  She’s superhot and talented, and it’s hard not to root for her whenever she comes out with a new flick.  But this has to stop.  I can see the appeal of doing a movie that bamboozles the audience; an ending so whammified it doesn’t matter what crap you sat through to get there.  It’s like Saw II or The Village: a movie where the ending was written first and a completely different movie was written around it, so you couldn’t possibly guess the who in the whodunnit.

In Perfect Stranger, Rowena (Berry) uses her looks and smarts to track down possible mistress-killer Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis).  She gets a temp job at his ad agency, hoping to find evidence that he murdered her friend Grace (Nicki Aycox), who threatened to spill the beans to his wife Mia (Paula Miranda).  She uses computer-savvy comic relief Miles (Giovanni Ribisi) to help infiltrate Hill’s computer for secrets.  Meanwhile, seems as though Harrison employs a woman just to keep him out of trouble, the lovely lesbian Josie (Daniella Van Grass).

So there’s a lot of suspects.  And the fact that Miles is kind of creepy throws him into the mix too.  You’ll suspect everyone, which means it doesn’t really matter who it is.  The filmmakers, knowing this, basically spin you right around and show you how clever they were by flashbacking to scenes you thought were just inane chatter, or hey, did you catch that minor detail that you would have practically needed a DVD pause feature to notice?

I’ll admit it.  I had no idea who was behind it, and don’t feel like I even had a chance.  If the filmmakers are trying to get me to want to watch the movie one more time, now being in on the proceedings, well, I don’t see the fun in that.  Because basically the whole movie is pretty boring.  Hardly any danger, no steam (Berry provides it by looking good, but then our complex moral standards in R-rated entertainment these days basically wussifies what could have been a nice, trashy erotic thriller), and then by the end you’re either going to find all of this clever or you’re going to want your money back.

And honestly, I can see why the film was made in this way.  It’s too easy to guess surprises in our post-Usual Suspects, Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, et al world, so when the film completely dodges anything that could possibly give it away, well…I felt more hoodwinked than satisfied.  Lots of things in the movie don’t even make any sense once it’s all explained.  It’s that kind of movie.


Comment from Jonathan Watkins
Time: April 13, 2007, 8:33 am

This had by far the worst preview I have ever seen, at least modern preview, so I had no interest in seeing it in the first place. And it looks like my feelings were justified. Good comments on the state we’re in right now with the twist ending; the reason the great examples you used work is because they actually had an interesting story to get us to that whammy of an ending. Nowadays it’s a different story all together; although I don’t think “Saw II” is as bad as people make it out to be, but it’s no “Suspects” or “Seven” either. Maybe we’ll have better luck next week with Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling in “Fracture;” that one has a good preview at least.

Comment from KW
Time: April 14, 2007, 10:57 pm

Wow. Another movie I had basically never heard of. Sounds like a good one to skip. There’s a really fine line between cleverly writing a whammy ending and just going hog wild over the top ridiculous. M. Knight has sort of helped us define this line’s position a little better, having been on both sides of it himself.

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