Directed by James Foley. Starring Halle Berry, Bruce Willis, Giovanni Ribisi, Gary Dourdan, Patti D'Arbanville, Clea Lewis. (2007, R, 109 min.)
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., April 20, 2007
The fishy smell that permeates Perfect Stranger comes from all of the red herrings flopping around this absurdly plotted Hollywood thriller. Yes, this one is a real stinker. Like so many of its contemporaries in the genre, Perfect Stranger is a hodgepodge of dead ends and twisty turns cannily packaged as an intricate narrative that’s always one step ahead of its audience. This marketing gloss aside, the reason why you can never outguess this movie is that it’s pretty much phony to the core, ultimately little more than a convoluted exercise in connecting the dots. The film’s setup arguably has some potential: An investigative reporter (Berry) whose childhood friend is murdered decides to entrap the powerful man (Willis) she thinks is responsible by ingratiating herself into his life in the guise of new identities, including an online seductress named Veronica. Exactly who’s the cat and who’s the mouse in this game of wills shifts as the story progresses, a feature that makes Perfect Stranger slightly interesting from a psychological perspective (if you can overlook its plot contrivances). Any benefit of the doubt instantaneously evaporates, however, when the obligatory surprise ending unfolds and explains it all to you, without the benefit of any clarity, logic, or common sense. Are screenwriters like Todd Komarnicki and Jon Bokenkamp today’s equivalent of snake-oil salesmen who think they can sell us anything as long as it’s made to appear complicated enough, or have all of the truly original ideas in the movies already been done to death? Even Berry’s bodacious bod (the woman is blessed with some really good genes) isn’t distraction enough to make Perfect Stranger palatable. Come to think of it, the same can be said for all of the films she’s headlined since winning her groundbreaking Oscar a few years ago. Maybe it’s time to change agents, Halle.