Perfect Stranger
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir James Foley
scr Todd Komarnicki
with Halle Berry, Bruce Willis, Giovanni Ribisi, Gary Dourdan, Nicki Aycox, Daniella Van Graas, Paula Miranda, Clea Lewis, Patti D'Arbanville, Jason Antoon, Richard Portnow, Heidi Klum
release US/UK 13.Apr.07
07/US Sony 1h49
Perfect Stranger
Trust no one: Berry and Willis

berry willis ribisi

Perfect Stranger As a trashy, twisty thriller, this film isn't half bad. Beefed up with an A-list cast and a strong visual style, the ridiculously convoluted plot is even fairly good fun to follow, right up to the genuinely surprising finale.

Rowena (Berry) is an ace New York reporter who sets up and destroys scandalous figures. When her latest prey gets away, she's given a time-out by her editor. But she continues to work with her obsessive researcher Miles (Ribisi) to pursue philandering businessman Harrison Hill (Willis), who had a fling with Katherine's childhood friend (Aycox) just before she was found murdered. As she worms her way into Hill's life from various sides, including an online persona, it begins to look like just about anyone could be guilty.

This is one of those whizzy whodunits in which the filmmakers gleefully throw us off the scent from the very start. And we don't really mind when it's done as entertainingly as this. Foley has a slick, insinuating directorial style that's constantly suggestive and often genuinely creepy, playfully relishing each red herring, freak-out dream sequence and frightening flashback. And the script's frequent touches of quirky wit also draw us into the mystery. We never really care how it's going to turn out, but it's good fun getting there.

Berry is seductive and sexy as the supposedly ace reporter whose methods come straight from Nancy Drew novels. Willis is a charming rogue--untrustworthy but perhaps not murderous. Ribisi is snappy and funny (and muscled up), but rather far too infatuated with Rowena. And there are terrific comic sidekick characters played by Lewis and Antoon, plus an endless gallery of shifty suspects that include a sleazy ex (Dourdan), a protective matron (D'Arbanville), a hot lesbian (Van Graas) and a jealous heiress wife (Miranda).

So it's almost irrelevant that the plot continually takes simplistic and contrived turns, leaving gaping holes virtually everywhere. At least the film has the nerve to get both yucky and sexy, and to embrace its inner silliness, right up to the nutty final coda. It's an exceptionally efficient pulp thriller that's utterly forgettable. And we wouldn't want it any other way.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 10.Apr.07

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Perfect Stranger Aron Biro, Romania: 1/5 "Is it me or there is a conspiracy of unexpected endings in Hollywood, built upon a tradition of great thrillers, but adding nothing to their value? I'm tired of spending the last half an hour of the movie watching explanations trying to prove the plausibility of the plot. It's almost insulting the spectator's intelligence (not that intelligence would be the key to solving the riddle of the movie). In the last year or so, it hasbecome too much: Perfect Stranger and a whole bunch of others; recently Number 23 showed no less than 40 minutes of trying to edit the plot back into some unplausible sense. I find this neither smart, nor experimental. Just desperate ways of trying to wake me up in the last half of a bad movie. I want my predictable movies back!" (21.Feb.08)
2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall