review by Dan Lybarger, 5 March 2004 


Director Philip Kaufman has made a lot of entertainingly gutsy films like The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, The White Dawn, The Right Stuff, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Quills. In all of these flicks, he's managed to credit viewers with having brains and to subvert and rework genres so the films are fresh and creative.

So what's he doing behind the helm of Twisted?

Apparently, even he needs to eat once in a while.

The latest thriller starring Ashley Judd is so tepidly by the book that it winds up becoming an unintentional parody. Judd plays the type of female cop who seems to exist only on screen. Jessica Shepard can clobber perps easily (maybe excessively), but she has some personal issues that end her upwardly mobile career.

As the film progresses, we learn that she has apparently slept with half the male population of San Francisco and frequently drinks her way into unconsciousness. How she manages to keep up a well-toned bod with such a lethal regimen is never fully answered.

The first real challenge she encounters once she becomes a homicide inspector is a serial killer whose crimes hit a little too close to home for Shepard. All of them are former lovers and have the kind of beatings that she uses to subdue criminals.

Because of her frequent lost weekends and her family history (it seems Dad was a serial killer), Jessica can't rule herself out as a suspect. Even she has doubts about her innocence.

There's one clue that isn't terribly incriminating, though. All the victims have cigarette burns on their hands. Every San Franciscan in Twisted chain-smokes, so it's not only a red herring but also a sign that Kaufman isn't really committed.

Screenwriter Sarah Thorp (See Jane Run) comes up with a workable setup, but Kaufman and the cast seem to think that making a mainstream thriller requires indifferent craftsmanship and the assumption that each viewer has recently been lobotomized. A nasty misogynistic tone doesn't help (can't Shepard be merely a competent professional instead of a Freudian test case?).

It's not enough for Shepard to merely drop her car keys. She has to defy the laws of physics and somehow release them in a way that makes them land out of reach under the vehicle. Not only does this enable a dark figure to easily creep up on her, it also gives her an opportunity to circumnavigate her hand through a nest of rats.

The overkill of having both the looming figure and those playful rodents generates more giggles than chills. If that weren't enough to kill the tension of the scene, Mark Isham's score (which seems more transposed than composed) blares loudly as if it were advertising the attempted suspense. By the time the killer's identity is revealed, viewers will either have guessed it or stopped caring.

Both Andy Garcia as Shepard's partner and Samuel L. Jackson as her mentor seem to be going through the motions until more interesting gigs come along. Judd doesn't seem that lucky. She's pretty much calcified her career with flicks like this one.

Kaufman's personal touch is missing, as if he knew this thing wouldn't look good on a résumé. The only signs that any entity other than computer was behind this thing are a few scenes of mildly kinky groping (he did direct Henry and June) and a locale in Kaufman's hometown.

On second thought, maybe there's something symbolic about the sea lions that work their way into the ending of the film. We may never know what is being symbolized, but it ends the film on a funnier note than most of the alleged comedies I've seen this year.


Directed by:
Philip Kaufman

Ashley Judd
Samuel L. Jackson
Andy Garcia
David Strathairn
Russell Wong
Mark Pellegrino

Written by:
Sarah Thorp

R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
parent or adult






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