*** (out of 5)
April 13, 2007
Halle Berry as ROWENA
Bruce Willis as HARRISON HILL
Giovanni Ribisi as MILES
Nicki Aycox as GRACE
Directed by: James Foley
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Ever since I saw “Perfect Stranger” at a press screening, something had been bothering me about it, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I know it wasn’t the best written film I’d seen – far from it. However, I thought it was okay for the genre. Honestly, I’ve learned to not expect too much for star vehicles released in the spring.
It wasn’t until I was getting prepared for this review that I realized the real problem: there wasn’t enough sex in this movie.
Yes, I know that I’m a pig. I like to see sexy women like Halle Berry on screen as much as the next red-blooded American male, but this is different. In this case, it wasn’t just me hoping to see Halle Berry’s $2 million breasts. I realized that for the genre of “Perfect Stranger,” things don’t go far enough.
For the most part, “Perfect Stranger” plays out like a basic erotic thriller. We’ve seen them before – usually with a plot dealing with a grisly murder and starring a hot, young actress. The classic example is “Basic Instinct.” These films don’t have the strongest plots, and their mysteries are either predictable or too convoluted to really explain fully. But we don’t see these kind of movies for the plot. The real hook is the sex. After all, who wasn’t curious to see the famous interrogation scene in “Basic Instinct”?
“Perfect Stranger” sets itself up as an erotic thriller. It deals with murder, sexual perversion, secrets from the past and mortal danger. And let’s not forget that as our heroine gets deeper into the situation, she must also get down and dirty with the bad guy.
The plot fits. Berry plays Rowena, a journalist who learns her best friend from home has been brutally murdered. Rowena knows she had a torrid relationship with Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), a top advertising executive in town, so she goes undercover to find out if he is the killer. Helping her out is her nerdy and perverse computer geek friend named Miles (Giovanni Ribisi). Soon, Rowena gets wrapped up in the charade, finding herself at the mercy of Hill.
Halle Berry is perfect for a role like this. She’s unbelievable gorgeous, and her body is prominently displayed in many of the scenes, usually wrapped in a sexy, hip-hugging dress. The only problem is that there just isn’t enough sex. Oh, there’s plenty of Halle Berry… but there isn’t enough Halle Berry, if you get my drift. Without this extra dose of debauchery, “Perfect Stranger” turns into your basic run-of-the-mill thriller, and for those films, we expect a better plot.
Still, if you’re okay with the PG-13 doses of sex in this film, it doesn’t make a bad piece of escapism. The story has plenty of twists and turns – sometimes too many. I found the plot doubling back on itself several times to its own detriment.
The cast is decent. Aside from Berry, the best performance comes from Giovanni Ribisi, who plays weird and perverse as good as anyone can. Willis is okay as Harrison Hill, but it’s nothing to write home about. No one ever accused him of being a great actor, but I don’t fault him in this case. He’s just not given much to work with.
Bouncing between Oscar-winning performances like “Monster’s Ball” and cinematic catastrophes like “Catwoman,” Halle Berry is paying her bills with this strikingly mediocre thriller. Don’t think too hard when you see it, or you’ll figure it out like I did. And then all the fun will be gone.