Rated R, 97 min. Directed by Philip Kaufman. Starring Ashley Judd, Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Garcia, David Strathairn, Russell Wong, Mark Pellegrino, Camryn Manheim.
As newly minted San Francisco police inspector Jessica Shepard, Ashley Judd is as cute as an angry little bug and nearly as effective. With a killer coif and a penchant for cruising the Bay area’s seedier dives in search of anonymous sex (not to mention those curve-hugging black leather and wife-beater ensembles that she sports throughout the film like a badge of internalized anarchy, she’s something of a one-woman army, raising havoc wherever she treads and regretting it later), Shepard is the new girl on the homicide block, so when a series of dead men begins turning up with the same identifying patterns linking them, and it turns out that they’re all former one-night stands of the inspector, you can bet your fogbound Frisco preconceptions that she’s rattled. And why not? With a former-cop father who snapped during her childhood and went on a killing spree and a serious love of wine that tosses her into eye-rolling blackouts whenever the pressure starts to cook, she’s Hollywood’s archetypal woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown-your-door-and-kick-your-face-in. The suspects are many: Shepard, of course, but also perhaps her headshrinker Dr. Frank (Strathairn, coolly annoying), new partner Mike Delmarco (Garcia, charmingly sleazy here), or any number of the lonely denizens of the waterfront dives she frequents near-nightly in an alcoholic haze. The only mystery here, however, is how screenwriter Sarah Thorp thought anyone might want to stick around for such an obviously telegraphed nonpayoff. The winsome and winning Judd has been mining similar territory for what seems like ages now – High Crimes, Kiss the Girls, Double Jeopardy, and Eye of the Beholder all share similarities in either tone or characterization – and it’s high time someone shook her out of it with a script that doesn’t require her to wear a shoulder holster or put the boot in someone’s face. Divorced from the thriller genre, she’s a fine, mercurial actor; her work in Ruby in Paradise and Where the Heart Is was calibrated not on a tuff-babe stance but on a wellspring of real talent, and with her gamine good looks Judd could easily catapult to the next cinematic level if only she could rid herself of these good cop/bad cop roles. Somewhere out there there’s a script with her name all over it and then some; the trick is finding that sucker amid all the dross. And what are we to make of certifiable genius Philip Kaufman’s involvement in Twisted? This from the man who in 1978 parlayed this same nightmare-by-the-sea locale into one of the most memorably paranoiac hellscapes of all time with his crafty, creepy, and utterly unforgettable remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers? If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect the involvement of those selfsame pod people in this current outing, but then again trading Strathairn’s psychiatrist for Snatchers shrink Leonard Nimoy might have been too, too weird by anyone’s standards. Ridiculously overwrought and sporting an unfriendly little subtext hinting that women with anxious libidos are to be studiously avoided at all costs – especially when they carry sidearms – Twisted is just that but little else.
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