Frailty
2 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
no soul is safe With his directoral debut, Paxton goes for a quietly creepy vibe that combines The Usual Suspects with Night of the Hunter, with rather uneven results. The film is told in flashback as Fenton Meiks (McConaughey) spins a tall story for an FBI agent (Boothe), starting 20 years earlier when his father (Paxton) had a vision from God and started killing "demons", leaving a string of missing people ... and a rose garden full of bodies. As a teen, Fenton (O'Leary) can't bring himself to believe in Dad's righteous motives, even though younger brother Adam (Sumpter) is full of wide-eyed belief. We know that after Dad's death, Adam continued the killing, but it takes awhile for Fenton to narrate the story, filling in the gaps and adding a few surprising twists.

Well, they're surprising if you hadn't made the Usual Suspects connection, which is fairly impossible to miss. It's not terribly difficult to predict where the story is going; Hanley's script is short on subtlety and understatement. But Paxton's acting and direction are finely gauged to keep our interest. There's a warm, homey glow to the film that underscores its rural Texas settings and highlights the horrific violence without ever being gruesomely explicit, and Paxton is very good as the single father whose mind begins to slip as he tries to take care of his boys. McConaughey and Boothe create a coolly restrained tension as the narrative emerges. The child actors aren't as strong; O'Leary is promising as the sceptic, but Sumpter seems underdirected and as a result unconvincing. And even if the film isn't nearly as clever or insightful as it thinks it is, at least it has the courage to go for a chillingly offbeat conclusion.

cert 15 strong themes, language, violence 12.Jul.02

dir Bill Paxton
scr Brent Hanley
with Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, Powers Boothe, Matt O'Leary, Luke Askew, Jeremy Sumpter, Melissa Crider, Levi Kreis Derk Cheetwood, Alan Davidson, Cyhthia Ettinger, Vincent Chase
release US 12.Apr.02; UK 6.Sep.02
Lions Gate
02/US 1h40

Brothers in arms. The Meiks siblings (McConaughey and Kreis) have a little chat before things get even more complicated.

paxton mcconaughey
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
no soul is safe send your review to Shadows... "Excellent film. Make sure you watch it. If you like this, you will then also want to watch Jacob's Ladder." --Mark Higson, Fleetwood, Lancs 5.May.03
2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

HOME | AWARDS | NEWS | FESTIVAL | Q&A | ABOUT | TALKBACK