|Calling this film "twisted" would not necessarily be a compliment, as the set of characters presented to the audience are an odd lot of people who will not readily garner many sympathy votes from the audience. Although some progressive films made in the past few years have tried to make the suggestion that one does not need a "sympathetic" character in order for a story to hold an audience's interest, that's certainly not the case with Twisted. With each of the lead actors putting in strong, though sometimes mildly erratic performances, one cannot immediately fault the actors for their involvement in this truly strange thriller.|
Excepting the fact that it's dreadfully obvious "whodunit" a mere reel or two into the film, the movie seems to proceed in classic "thriller" fashion: revealing the mystery piece by piece until the puzzle is completed by the person responsible for the crimes. Having the word, "standard" placed upon a film's plot does not automatically mean a death knell for a film's interest factor (or lack of it), but regarding thrillers, "standard" is the one place a filmmaker doesn't want to be. Surprising the audience is the number one aim of filmmakers in this genre and when the element of surprise is missing, there is no possibility that any other aspect of the film (like acting or dialogue, for example) will be able to compensate.
Even when the performances come from performers such as Samuel L. Jackson and Andy Garcia, two lauded actors who are hopelessly mired in dopey dialogue. And having established herself as a standard player in a dopey thriller more than once, rising star Ashley Judd has again chosen a role in a cinematic mystery that lacks sufficient bite. In 2002's High Crimes and in 1999's Double Jeopardy and Eye Of The Beholder, Judd has again and again found roles that fail to adequately showcase her abilities. Her attempts to improve her dramatic abilities over the last decade of her acting career are evident in several of her films, but whenever she ventures into a mystery or thriller, her ability to choose a decent role becomes highly suspect.
One of the film's greatest falters is in the way it handles the psychoanalysis of its main character. Choosing to structure the film around Jessica Shepard's sexual encounters (Shepard is Judd's leading role), the screenplay finds fault with her character time and time again and makes it increasingly difficult for the audience to care whether she lives or dies. And to create the question in the viewer's mind as to the identity of the killer, every one of the supporting characters must seem a little "dirty," making it difficult to latch one's sympathies onto any character in particular.
Regarding the technical prowess of the film, Twisted seems well done as far as cinematography and set design are concerned, with the suitably foggy and sometimes dreary location of San Francisco featured obviously in several shots of the city's familiar vistas (the Golden Gate Bridge, Pacific Bell Stadium, and a host of sea lions among them). Ashley Judd's apartment is also a unique location, consisting of a maze of glass paneled doors and windows, and it adds much to the "nervous" atmosphere of the film.
But a film cannot succeed on atmosphere alone. And were it up to the capabilities of the actors, the film might have stood on sturdier legs as well. But the most important aspect of a thriller is its script. Surprising the audience and throwing out various character and plot mis-directions is the name of the game and Twisted just doesn't play that game well. It's clear that the actors try their best to portray their characters as the script demands, but with so few real, unexpected surprises, the thrilling aspect of the movie is quite missing.
In some strange way the film sometimes resembles a mixture of a late-night sexually hued potboiler and any of the latest romantic suspense novel found on the New York Times' best seller list. Except the sexual tension isn't sufficiently sexual. And since the film focuses so heavily on the past sexual exploits of Ashley Judd's character - and on her present romantic interludes - the weak sexual tension is almost as large a fault as the highly predictable script. Twisted is a textbook example of a mediocre film which would find a more comfortable home on the video rental shelf.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.