Sony // 2007 // 109 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // August 2nd, 2007
Every secret leads to another.
Very quietly in early 2007, a film with one normally bankable star and another who won an Oscar opened to tepid reaction, to say the least. Featuring a suspenseful story and decent performances, the film disappeared as quietly as it was released. So now that it's coming out on video, how does Perfect Stranger shake out when it comes to things high definition-wise and otherwise?
In Perfect Stranger, from a screenplay by Todd Komarnicki (Resistance) and directed by James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross), Rowena (Halle Berry, Monster's Ball) is a successful investigative reporter at a newspaper, working under a nom de plume named David Shane. She works with her tech-savvy assistant Miles (Giovanni Ribisi, Saving Private Ryan) to expose the corrupt dealings of the proverbial "rich white men," though one story is squashed for admittedly vague reasons, leading Ro to quit. She is approached by a longtime childhood friend in Grace (Nicki Aycox, Over There) who mentions that there is a man who she is threatening to expose for his deviancy. From that position, Ro and Miles find themselves in an ever complicating circle of lies, deceit and secrecy that includes the head of an advertising firm played by Bruce Willis (Die Hard), his wife, his assistant at work, and just about anyone else you can think of.
So according to Rotten Tomatoes, the 10 worst reviewed movies of 2007 as of July 12 are films like The Cleaner, The Reaping and Hannibal Rising. This is my fourth such review within this category (the others have been Norbit, Premonition and Are We Done Yet?). Yay! Go me! Look at the lengths I go for you, my readers. But quite frankly, it's not too terrible, at least for the first 75 or 80 minutes. It's a clever mix of drama and suspense and throws a lot of possibilities at you.
But the ending is so bizarre, so offbeat, that even jaded movieviewers like myself who thought they saw what was coming were thrown at the end by a twist that was so nonsensical that it flushed away any preceding goodwill. Slapped together by quotes taken out of context (along with some "conveniently" forgotten about when the final cut of the film came around), the message is clear. Men are evil, they are to be castrated when necessary, and never mind if they're guilty or innocent, if killing them is done in self-defense, all should rightfully be forgiven. Granted, I'm not the spokesman for the gender, so I agree with parts of this theory, but to employ this philosophy when producing a suspense movie ranks up there with mixing peanut butter in one's tuna salad.
That's not the only sin the film commits over the course of an hour and a half. Berry's character targets Willis' character and helps use the instant messenger tool to do it, which is nice if the film was made in 1995. Ribisi's character is supposed to be the trusting assistant, but he has a crush on Berry's character to the point of beyond creepiness, and my wife semi-jokingly wondered when we'd see the "shrine" and sure enough, behold an apartment with a hidden room that has an armload of pictures of her. Once I shook the memories of Crazy Joe Davola from Seinfeld out of the way, I had to start laughing at the silliness of it, not knowing the silliness to come. I hate to keep harping on the ending, but the frustrating thing is that just about everyone involved should have known better when they first read the script. You've got the crazed assistant, you've got the ever suspicious wife, the only thing that was missing was some guy in a mask with a creative puncturing instrument, and you've got one of any mix of a third tired horror movie that shouldn't get the attention or time that it tries to earn.
On a technical level, the 2.40:1 MPEG-4 encoded transfer is OK, in checking in on the film from time to time, the bitrate seemed to be a little bit down compared to other MPEG-4 features, and the level of detail just wasn't up to snuff overall. Blacks were fine and what little color was there certainly popped, but it was nothing with which to show off a television set. The PCM soundtrack was also underwhelming, though dynamics were maintained, things were just vanilla on this dialogue driven film. And as far as extras go, the only extra is a ten minute long making of look at the film with interviews from the cast and crew, nothing that hasn't been seen several times before.
There was one scene where Ro finds out her boyfriend was acting like a philandering dog which is pretty coincidental. I mean, when you consider that Berry's second husband Eric Benet was always fooling around on her behind her back ("I have a sexual addiction. I'm getting treatment"), she probably didn't have to dig too hard for some emotion and some pain when it came to uttering those lines.
Perfect Stranger starts off interestingly enough and it leaves you wondering what's going to become of the main players, but then it all falls apart on you. Quite frankly, I should have seen this coming, considering the precedent set by the actors involved. I mean, Giovanni Ribisi can't act in mainstream productions anymore (witness the Flight of the Phoenix remake), Bruce Willis can't act when he has any semblance of hair on his head (witness 16 Blocks), and Halle Berry can't act in anything that has her in a starring role (witness Catwoman). Don't waste your time seeing this, the weather is nice outside now anyway, you should be at the pool.
All parties are guilty as charged, and they are sentenced to sequester this evidence as far away as they possibly can.
Review content copyright © 2007 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* PCM 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Making of Featurette
* Official Site