I like a good mystery and it was only a time until we’d see more and more fueled by the world of online chatting. Yeah, the premise does seem sort of dated already, but given how common-place all this instant messaging and such is, it was just a matter of time. But even I have to admit it’s weird seeing the likes of Halle Berry and Bruce Willis in such a thriller as this, one that seems so . . . beneath them. Maybe it’s because the movie isn’t that great to begin with, coming across as some weird Cinemax-type movie, slowly going off the rails before crashing at the end.
When her friend’s affair with married ad exec Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis) ends in the woman’s murder, investigative reporter Rowena Price (Academy Award® winner Halle Berry) vows to bring the killer to justice. Suspecting Hill of the crime, she goes undercover by posing as two highly alluring women: Katherine, a sexy temp who works within his agency, and Veronica, a seductive temptress he chats up online. Engaging in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, both Rowena and Hill begin to realize things may not be what they seem. For some people will go to great lengths to protect their secrets, even if it means risking everything.
You know, the synopsis makes the movie sound pretty good. So does the tagline, “Every Secret Leads To Another.” I like the idea of a psychological thriller that unravels through secrets,lies and deception. But, with a premise like this, the movie has a big chance of going downhill pretty fast. Halle Berry as an online seductive temptress? Please. But, if the movie was bad, it would at least end up being a guilty pleasure, right? Not at all.
The movie starts off well enough, with Price, played by Berry, exposing a secret gay relationship with a hot-shot up-and-coming senator. Turns out she’s an investigative reporter with a nose for controversy. Unfortunately, the senator has some pull at the newspaper for which she works and has the story killed, prompting Price to quit. As the synopsis says, a friend of her stops by to tell of an affair she’s having with a married man. She ends up dead quickly thereafter. Price, determined to prove Hill’s guilt (played by Willis), she goes undercover to find the evidence that will put Hill away. And you know, that sounds pretty good. There’s a lot of silly moments, but it’s still tolerable. But then it gets . . . worse.
The first 90 minutes or so are tolerable, and somewhat silly, but then the movie ends on such a bizarre and aggravating note. It ends in a way that not only spits at the viewer, but takes away any goodwill you may have had toward the movie. Once the movie ends, all you can do is shake your head. As the big twist comes, using clips and quotes (which are all out of context), all you can do is wonder what happened. The movie was okay . . . stupid and weird, and sorta bad-bad, but it was tolerable. But this? Lord no. It just crashes, and hard, too. The movie teeters with bad subplots and ridiculous characters, all careening for what should be the predictable ending, Hill in jail. That’s what we’re sort of betting on, right? Of course, once we get to the ending, everything just collapses into a big mess.
We have this subplot involving Price’s ex-boyfriend . . . which goes nowhere. She has apparently dumped him, now they’re back together, and then she once again dumps the cheating jerk. All the while, her creepy colleague played by Giovanni Ribissi, is obsessed with her. Ribisi’s character is supposed to be the trusting assistant, but he has an insane crush on Berry’s character. He calls her, keeps tabs on her, and, as we find out in a bizarre scene, has a shrine to her in a locked room at his apartment. And it doesn’t help that for the first third of the movie, I could have sworn Ribisi’s character was gay. Not until he mentions an ex-girlfriend, and is seen watching Price have sex with her ex-boyfriend, does it become clear that Ribisi’s character is a bit demented. But that doesn’t really go anywhere except for a shouting match and then they seem to be friends again.
There’s just so much over-the-top silliness in here, and any giggles that may have come from that are wiped away but the crotch-kick of an ending. It’s just horrible. What would have been a somewhat fun guilty pleasure just . . . loses it at the end (and everyone involved really should have known better). The movie has all the cliché standards of the genre. There’s the damaged lead heroine, the suspicious wife, the crazed assistant, the druggie ex-best friend, and the possibly homicidal husband. It’s all there, and it plays a bit worse than it should, . . . and then it gets to that damn nonsensical ending. If it was dropped, the movie would have been a little better, though still bad. This ending is just ludicrous.
As for the DVD, the extras are slim. Outside of about thirty or so trailers, there’s a brief featurette, “Virtual Lives: The Making of Perfect Stranger”, and that’s it. It’s the usual fluff that doesn’t really add anything. The audio and video are pretty sharp quality, and I can only imagine how sharp this movie will look on Blu-Ray. Sadly, the movie itself doesn’t lend itself to such detail. It’s a bit of a grey, bland movie which will likely look even more bland and grey on Hi-Def.
Overall, Skip It. But, if you’re interested in seeing the horrible ending to the movie, and I don’t blame you, than rent Perfect Stranger. Much like this review, the movie is basically a mess. It’s just not good enough to be a guilty pleasure, and the ending just . . . it just boggles the mind. I don’t understand how anyone could have signed on, knowing the twist at the end. I’m sure it sounded good on paper, but the execution is just terrible. The acting doesn’t help that much either, as none of the principles seem to really know what they’re doing. Again, just skip the movie. I’m sure it’ll be on cable soon enough.
Perfect Stranger is available on DVD and Blu-Ray August 21st, 2007.