DIRECTED BYJames Foley
STARRINGHalle Berry - Rowena Price
Bruce Willis - Harrison Hill
Giovanni Ribisi - Miles Haley
Gary Dourdan - Cameron
Nicki Aycox - Grace
Year - 2007
Score - 1.5 Howls Outta 4
Even though most of my reviews are related to horror films, I do enjoy other genre of film. I love comedies, action flicks, dramas, and especially mystery thrillers. Who doesn't like to watch a mystery unfold on film where we, as an audience, are allowed to gather the evidence thrown at us visually and try to figure out who's the culprit of the film's crime at the end? So after watching HALLOWEEN films for the past 2 weeks and throwing up lines of dialogue from these films ad nauseum, I was looking for something else to stimulate my brain and eyes. So I stumbled upon the Halle Berry and Bruce Willis mystery-thriller vehicle, PERFECT STRANGER.
Haven't seen PERFECT STRANGER? Well no one did, as the film barely made a dent on the box office when it was released last year. Honestly, I had no interest in this film and could have care less about ever watching it. But I like Bruce Willis, so I figured I'd give this one a chance on DVD. And while Halle Berry's smokin' hot, I come with low expectations for her films except when Hugh Jackman, Sir Ian McKellen, and Patrick Stewart are in the cast along with her. So I watched the film and was glad I walked in with low expectations, because I would have been disappointed if they were higher. PERFECT STRANGER isn't as bad of a film many critics made it to be, but it's not exactly a great film anyone is gonna praise or talk about any time soon.
Rowena Price (Halle Berry) is an investigative reporter who likes to expose scandals to gain that Pulitzer Prize. When a scandal she exposed gets covered up by the bosses of the newspaper she works for, Rowena quits. However, a childhood friend named Grace (Nicki Aycox) gives Rowena information of an affair she's having with a successful and famously married advertising executive, Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis). Hill has a thing for chatting it up with hot women on the internet, interesting Rowena when Grace offers to expose the guy in one of Rowena's future articles. However the plan goes awry when Grace is found dead, making Harrison Hill the prime suspect.
With the help of her tech-saavy best friend Miles (Giovanni Ribisi), Rowena goes undercover as a temp at Harrison Hill's agency in an attempt to reveal and expose all of Hill's secrets. Rowena gets caught up in Hill's world personally and on the web, revealing a web of lies and secrets that make it known that nothing is as it seems.
REVIEWIf you're expecting Balki Bartokomous from Mypos to do his Dance of Joy with his cousin Larry, you're thinking of the wrong PERFECT STRANGER(S) [even though I think that would have been a better film than this one]. Instead, this PERFECT STRANGER is your standard run-of-the-mill thriller that tries too hard to be something that it isn't. This film was promoted as a sexy thriller, but there's absolutely nothing sexy in this film. Sure, there are like 2 scenes of sex in the film but I've seen more skin and sexual steam on daytime television than in this film. Nothing about this film even rings original. The characters are barely developed, but it's enough for us to understand what they're about. The mystery is pretty good, but the end result is a head scratcher. It seems like the film is a M. Night Shyamalan romance thriller only made with the purpose of sacrificing its story and characters for a cheap twist ending [and the ending barely makes sense to begin with]. This film could have shown on weekends on Lifetime TV, but wasn't because of its two leads [and one of them is barely even in the film].
While bearable, the script had to be written by an amateur screenwriter. The story is way too generic and sloppy, putting like 10 pieces of a puzzle that don't seem to join together without breaking some of the pieces and forcing them to fit together first. There's so much going on in this film that for such a short film [100 minutes], it almost feels like too much. We get Rowena's affairs with CSI's Gary Dourdan [who's pretty much wasted in this film - as I should've been watching this] and Bruce Willis, her past with her mom and abusive stepfather, and her really weird and uncomfortable relationship with Giovanni Ribisi. Then you have Bruce Willis' storyline, and Ribisi's storyline, and it just keeps going onto to give you a supposedly shocking ending. If it were a bit more straightforward, this film could have been a lot better. But it just keeps piling up and kind of waters down everything. Not that it doesn't all make sense, because it surprisingly does. But the story is an underdeveloped mess. The fact that THREE different endings were shot for the film shows they had no idea where this film was going. Unfortunately, the other two endings not used are NOT on the DVD [what's up with that?], but the one they picked was pretty out of the blue and caught me off guard. While it's nice that it was pretty unpredictable, the way it was revealed [through voice-overs and flashbacks while showing us the "clues" throughout the film] seems a bit forced. If you ever seen Alfred Hitchcock's MARNIE, you know what I'm sort of talking about. It honestly had to be slapped together because the things that seemed important for the ending to work were treated like a non-issue during the rest of the film. The ending should have enhanced the film, but in my opinion, it only made it more pointless and confusing. It's like the screenwriter is on the defensive, telling us "I gave you all the answers to the culprit, so you can't complain when he or she is finally revealed!" No, I can complain because most of it wasn't revealed until the actual revelation, dumbass! I'm starting to really get annoyed with the whole "twist ending" aspect of modern films. I appreciate the ride getting there, but not at the expense of giving me characters I can't root for or relate to and a story that's been done better in made-for-TV flicks. There's no smooth, cohesive flow in the film, which hurts it alot. Save that kind of stuff for a SCOOBY-DOO episode if you can't make it work.
The whole internet aspect of the film is also a neat idea...for 1995! I mean seriously, it was like these young, hip characters had no idea how to use IMs. Are you serious? Where the hell have these people been living? The whole Google search, text messaging, firewall breaking, online chatting stuff for the film are nothing but plot devices that while drive the story along, don't add up to much. Being surprised that your best friend can hack into your computer and read your IMs shouldn't shock you. You know the guy was a genius at hacking through firewalls. That's what you get for asking for his help! For investigative reporters, they sure don't know jack.
Director James Foley, who directed better films like GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS and FEAR, is just okay. While the picture looks nice and the pacing is pretty well-done, nothing else about the direction really stands out. Except for the close-up. Boy, does Foley love shooting people up close for those reaction shots. How do I know that? Because we get one every five freakin' minutes! And while I love close-ups for reaction shots, doing it so often tends to take away its effectiveness each time it's used. And Foley effectively used angles to hide away any time Halle Berry was nude, meaning her goodies were never seen. BOO to you, Mr. Foley! Halle nude would have at least raised the rating a half howl, but at least we get low-cut dresses. So I can't complain. Much. Guess I'm just gonna have to watch SWORDFISH again for my Halle boobage fix.
The acting won't win any Oscars, but it wasn't bad. Halle Berry plays Halle Berry again. Now I may get flamed for this, but I do believe that Berry can act if she wanted to. I've seen her do it effectively in LOSING ISAIAH and MONSTER'S BALL, which she won her Oscar for. I just think she picks roles that allows her to use her beauty more than her acting skills. This is one of them, even though she does carry the film pretty well, given the script. But she didn't convince me enough in her role. She's supposed to be this tough, street-smart journalist and she becomes less and less so as the film continues. Plus you never get to know her. She uses so many different identities during the film that we're never sure who she really is. And she's kind of bitchy to her friends and colleagues too. Am I supposed to like this woman or not? At least she acts very well when she's getting plowed in the middle of a hallway by Gary Dourdan, although the clothes stay on [???]. I thought this was a sexy thriller? Oh well. At least it's better than B.A.P.S.!
Bruce Willis barely has a role in this film, although his name is top billing, but at least he does what he can with the role [which isn't much really]. He's clearly in this film for another paycheck, because it obviously wasn't for the script. But at least Willis is his usual charismatic and charming self. And while he does have some decent chemistry with Berry, they don't have many scenes together to really spark that match and make a fire. And they don't even have sex either. I thought this was a sexy thriller? Oh well.
And Giovanni Ribisi steals the show from Berry and Willis as the weird, perverted best friend of Berry's Rowana character. Apparently Ribisi read the script differently than the other actors, because he really stepped up and created the only character that was interesting enough to care about. He was funny, jealous, creepy - is that character development? Who knew that concept would work in a film like this? I really enjoyed Ribisi in this film and kept wishing he could have used these skills in a much better movie. He was too good for this film. And for you horny ladies reading this, you get to see a lot of Ribisi skin in this film. At least someone will be happy.
Everyone else was pretty much there. Even Gary Dourdan, who really deserved better than this. Don't quit your prime time job just yet, dude. And I loved the product placement for Victoria's Secret, Google, and whatever else was thrown in my face. Putting ads in your film is always more important than story and development of characters! Especially when only 10 people are gonna see your film. GREAT JOB!!
THE FINAL HOWL
PERFECT STRANGER isn't a totally terrible film but it's not close to even being a good one either. Rent it if you're curious, but you'll probably want your money back. If you want to see a similar film, turn to Lifetime on weekends and watch one of those films starring Valerie Bertinelli, Lindsay Wagner, or Tori Spelling. You'll probably get a lot more enjoyment out of those films than this one. And the ending will probably make more sense too. Not sexy. Not thrilling. Not good. This PERFECT STRANGER is not worth talking to.