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March 2, 2004 > Twisted


Director: Philip Kaufman

by Christopher Cobb

It's helmed by one of the best directors and stars three of Hollywood's best actors: Ashley Judd, Andy Garcia and Samuel L. Jackson. So what went wrong?

"Twisted" is a marvelous example of a splendid troupe of actors trapped underneath the sagging big-top of a weak script. Each try their hardest to hold it up, but in the end they can't help but look like the only clownish lumps left in an otherwise flat experience.

That isn't to say the story probably wasn't good at some point - earlier in the creative process - and one can't help but wonder what might have happened if a more talented suspense screenwriter could have done with it.

The film follows newly promoted Jessica Shepard (Judd) as she begins her first serial homicide case. However, she quickly realizes she has slept with each of the victims--and this obviously complicates things. Unable to rule herself out as a suspect (she drinks A LOT in this movie, often blacking out), she also can't help ruling out her new partner (Garcia - he's a loose cannon. How do we know? Because someone says it out loud).

And that is one of the major problems with an already hard-to-buy script: the audience never has the opportunity to think things out, because the characters are too eager to tell you what's going on. This is not a good thing for what tries to be a taut psychological thriller.

Instead, screenwriter Sarah Thorp decides to overplay Shepard's sexuality early on, leaving no place to wonder. Instead of holding the information back, slowly releasing Shepard's demons, we get them all at once and in the first seven minutes of the film. They are a lot less intriguing this way.

Having raised Jessica since childhood, Police Commissioner John Mills (a sleepwalking Jackson) is glad to see his de-facto daughter become detective. However, he appears to have been oblivious to Jessica's issues while raising her, even though he has been in her life since the age of six.

Still, it is director Philip Kaufman (who shined with 2000's "Quills," and the 1978 remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," another San Francisco located film) who should have known better. His resume is far too impressive to justify making this film. Why did he choose such a flimsy story?

While I might be inclined to warn viewers about seeing this film because of its implausibility, I say go for it. Beautifully shot entirely in San Francisco, it's thrilling to see familiar locations on the big screen.

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