Twisted Movie Review

Few cities on earth make for a better backdrop for murder mysteries than San Francisco. Its naturally spooky features - the fog-shrouded skyline, the damp city streets, and the massive bay - are all instant mood setters. It's the ultimate studio backlot. And yet, it amazes me that the thriller Twisted wastes all of the suspense and atmosphere that is so intrinsic in the San Francisco surroundings.

Ashley Judd plays newbie homicide detective Jessica Shepard, a former street beat cop whose quick rise in the department is due to her connections with the police commissioner John Mills (Samuel L. Jackson). When Shepard's parents were killed in a murder-suicide decades before, Mills (who was Shepard's father's former partner) became Shepard's surrogate father and mentor. She still struggles with the death of her family today and attends mandated counseling sessions with Dr. Melvin Frank (David Strathairn). Yet, despite the professional help, she drinks heavy doses of alcohol, sleeps with any man she finds at a bar, and fights with fellow detectives.

Shepard's promotion to homicide also coincides with a new series of murders targeting her ex-boyfriends, where the killer leaves cigarette-burn marks on the victims' hands. Each night, while she is passed out drunk in her apartment, a new grizzly murder is committed. The next morning, her partner Mike Delmarco (Andy Garcia), is there to pick her up and conduct the police work that she is too incapacitated to do herself. Shepard quickly becomes the suspect when she cannot account for her actions while the murders take place.

Unsure who he wants to take the fall, director Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff) makes everyone a suspect. Shepard could be the killer because she's messed up in the head and can't remember her comings and goings. Kaufman also suggests the killer could be Shepard's shrink Dr. Frank, because he knows all her secrets and can exploit them. Not to be left out is her cigarette-smoking partner Delmarco, who could be guilty because the murders do not occur until after she joins up with him! The substandard police work fails to engage, including the coroner's (Camryn Manheim) blood analysis.

One of the central problems with Twisted is that it's too one-dimensional to work as a murder mystery. The characters we're introduced to either become murdered, in the case of the ex-boyfriends, or they become suspects. By process of elimination, it's very easy to determine who the killer is, and when our predictions are confirmed, the film loses all suspense. The plot is manipulated from the very beginning to aid the conveniences that are needed to explain the killer's nonsensical motivations and the preposterous outcome.

The capable cast is so handicapped by the material that even they are unable to elevate this mess beyond the typical, standard police fare. You would also think that setting the film in San Francisco would at minimum give it an eerie feel, but we spend too much time in closed spaces to really see the bigger picture. Twisted is ultimately one of the least satisfying thrillers in years.

On DVD, some 15 minutes of deleted scenes back up a commentary track from Kaufman, plus three run-of-the-mill making-of featurettes.

That haircut? That cell phone? That TV tray? Now that's twisted.


Comments

Twisted Rating

" Unbearable "

Rating: R, 2004

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