Frailty Movie Review

What if God spoke to you? No, I'm not talking about last night when you drank that bottle of tequila. What if he came to you sober and gave you a mission?

The Maiks family was a happy one. Father and two young sons, they had carved out an all American existence after the boy's mother died giving birth to the youngest. Until the boy's father (Bill Paxton) gets a visit from God, bestowing upon him a terrible mission to rid the world of demons, complete with a list of names of real human beings upon which the family is to wreak divine vengeance. And you thought your family was dysfunctional. Still firmly grounded in the real world, 12-year-old Fenton Maiks (Matthew O'Leary) is convinced his father has gone mad, and struggles to find the courage to stop his insane killing spree, before his younger brother is completely brainwashed.

Despite Director Bill Paxton's claims that the title is a reference to the movie's budget, Frailty couldn't be more appropriately named. The film's narrative is woven on the most delicate of threads, pulling its audience through a dark and disturbed trail of past and present, following the evolution of a serial killer. As a director, Paxton is surprisingly brilliant, deftly sewing together what could have been a confusing and horrifying vision into an intense and engrossing head-trip.

However, Paxton's pulling double duty here as director and actor. Truthfully, I've never seen him this good. Maybe he's just better connected to the material, since he's working at it from more than one angle, but Bill owns this film, on screen or behind the camera. Young Matthew O'Leary too, showboats a deft bit of maturity in his acting style, whether wielding an axe or a grave-digging shovel.

Where Frailty deserves the most credit though is in its total lack of gore. A lot of good folks get hacked up in this flick, but there's not one spurt of fake blood, not one splatter of brains across the wall. Instead, Frailty opts for the much more suspenseful and terrifying option of letting viewers envision death for themselves. In a manner that can only be described as deliciously Hitchcockian, Paxton cuts away just before the axe falls, leaving the terrifying possibilities of each victims demise to swim in our heads.

With all there is to love about Frailty, it might be easy to overlook a couple of minor flaws, but they bear mentioning. First, the musical score, which is suitably mysterious and dark, also happens to be the same suitably mysterious and dark musical score heard in every mysterious and dark movie made in the past decade. Maybe they didn't have the budget to pick up a decent composer, I suppose ten million bucks really isn't much dough by Hollywood standards, but some originality would've been nice. Then there's the ending, which is actually quite good. Truth is uncovered, preconceived notions are shattered, and we end up with one hell of a twist. But frankly, it was a little easy to see coming. I don't know that that really detracts much from the film, because I didn't leave feeling let down. Quite the contrary. However, if you think it through while watching it, it's a little bit too easy to realize there's only one possible conclusion to this type of madman tale.

But I don't want to hack the movie up into a bloody mess. As far as axe-wielding mayhem goes, this flick is top-of-the-line, and definitely a lot more than just blood and guts serial killer horror. Paxton's made it smart, suspenseful, and sophisticated, and audiences won't be disappointed.

The DVD includes three commentary tracks (Paxton's is especially interesting), several deleted scenes (worth watching), and various other vignettes. Highly recommended disc.


Can ya dig it?


Frailty Rating

" Extraordinary "

Rating: R, 2002


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