Twisted


Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews Robin Clifford 
Twisted
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews Laura Clifford 
San Francisco detective Jessica Shepard (Ashley Judd) is a first class police officer. That is until the men with whom she slept with start ending up dead. Suddenly, the hard working cop is both the main investigator and the key suspect in the string of murders in “Twisted.”

Robin:
Director Philip Kaufman has had, to say the least, an eclectic career as a filmmaker with such varied works as “The Right Stuff,” “Henry and June” and “Quills.” He has always been daring and innovative so it brings me wonder why he would attach himself to such a lame, clichéd, totally predictable effort as “Twisted.”

Ashley Judd plays a tough, loose cannon cop whom we meet as she is being threatened by a knife wielding assailant (Leland Orser). Jessica gets the drop on the guy, the prime suspect in a series of brutal murders and, after cuffing him, gives him one last kick in the head before backup arrives. Later that night, as she is celebrating her promotion and transfer as a homicide inspector she spots a stranger who seems to have a keen interest in the comely cop. She tells her colleagues that she is heading home but, instead, stops at another bar and picks up a handsome young guy for a one night stand.

Shepard starts her tour of duty in homicide and finds out that the stranger from the bar is her new partner, Mike Delmarco (Andy Garcia). They are soon called into Jessica’s first murder case, a male victim whose body washed up onto the docks in San Francisco. As they look for clues – they find a ritual-like cigarette burn on the back of the dead man’s hand. Then, Jessica has the shocking realization that she knows the victim! He was the one night stand! She tells her partner about the relationship and, in turn, warns the other detectives to be on the lookout for similar cases.

Soon after, another body shows up on the piers and it looks like the same MO as the first. And, Jessica comes to the sickening apprehension that this guy, too, was another of her one time trysts. This is doubly worrying to the new inspector because she has started to be plagued with blackouts that occurred at the time of the murders. Now, Shepard is not only one of the investigators, she may well be the prime suspect. Her mentor, friend and surrogate father, Police Commissioner John Mills (Samuel L. Jackson) backs her up and keeps her on the case. The body count continues to rise as Jessica comes to believe that she is the killer.

“Twisted” doesn’t cover any new ground in the thriller genre and, if anything, is a mere rehashing of tired story lines. Fledgling screenwriter Sarah Thorp penned a routine thriller that fails to thrill. Utilizing the time-worn introduction of Magoffin – misleading clues that are meant to lead you away from who the real killer is so you’ll be “surprised” in the end – the scripter tries to use sleight of hand to distract the viewer from the identity of the real perpetrator. Unfortunately, the simplistic script fails miserably with the distractions and I guessed the outcome long before the credits rolled. This is a cookie cutter yarn that breaks no new ground.

The acting is competent, at best, with the thespians forced, with the material, to act in mysterious and sinister ways to push the plot forward. Meanwhile, Jessica has a drinking problem, blackouts, issue with the violent deaths of her parents 25 years ago and must see a police department shrink (David Strathairn). One device, the blackouts, is supposed to lead you to believe that Shepard is the killer. But, when she wakes up where she passed out I could only wonder how she could possibly be the murderer. Also, with Jessica directly and suspiciously tied to each victim, why would her boss and friend keep her on the case? (Oh yeah, if they didn’t do this we wouldn’t have a movie.)

Ashley Judd has to find a new career path instead of taking roles in crime thrillers like “Twisted,” “Kiss the Girls,” “Double Jeopardy” and “High Crimes.” The actress started out with great promise but now only seems concerned with a paycheck instead of her art. Andy Garcia (looking a little pudgy here) has the sad role of being an unsuspecting suspect. Samuel L. Jackson could have telephoned in his performance it was so lackluster and predictable. The rest of the cast are left out in the cold.

I should never come out of a theater feeling that I wasted my time but that is just what I felt about “Twisted” and that’s the real crime. I give it a D.

Laura:
Newly promoted Homicide Inspector Jessica Shepard (Ashley Judd, "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood") has a problem when the male victims of her first case continue to be men that she's slept with.  Jessica is also battling with alcoholic blackouts and the troubling history of her dad, a policeman who went on a rampage that ended with the shooting of his wife and himself.  Jessica's beginning to fear that she may be "Twisted."

Ashley Judd has squandered the initial promise she showed in "Ruby in Paradise" with one hackneyed police/serial killer thriller after another.  She's become her own franchise, although who will continue to buy her product, especially after the shoddy output that is "Twisted?" The bigger question, however, is what drew such talents as director Philip Kaufman (of "Quills," "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" and "The Right Stuff" fame) and David Strathairn ("Blue Car") to such career lows?  "Twisted" is a preposterous mess, a film that looks like it was hacked in the editing room to make the running time less painful.

Jessica posits a theory that the cigarette burn on the first victim's hand is the mark of a serial killer that is met with the derision of her more experienced colleagues, especially Dale Becker (Titus Welliver, "Biker Boyz").  Becker's burned because Shepard earned her promotion by bagging his suspect and because she's a woman.  When the second victim turns up with the same mark, though, she's congratulated and everyone close to her begins to light up.  This includes her new partner Mike Delmarco (Andy Garcia, "Oceans Eleven"), a guy with more than a professional interest in his sleep-around partner, and Jessica's ex Jimmy (Mark Pellegrino, "The Hunted"), a cop who continues to stalk her (even, it must be noted, after she breaks his nose and he calls her a psycho).  Jessica's rage issues (she kicked Becker's suspect in the face after cuffing him) are addressed by Dr. Melvin Frank (David Strathairn ("Blue Car"), who points out obvious parental issues while Jessica keeps declaring herself fine.  Mentor John Mills (Samuel L. Jackson ("S.W.A.T."), her dad's partner who raised her after the murder/suicide, backs her while cautioning her on her dangerous lifestyle.

Screenwriter Sarah Thorp builds up the usual false suspects before lazily revealing the murderer to be the person we should least suspect who is altogether too obvious because of the well worn formula.  The film is moved through its paces so hurriedly that it becomes laughable, a cycle of Jessica passing out, waking up to an empty Cabernet Sauvignon bottle and getting a phone call about the latest victim.  It all wraps up in the usual way, with characters who had previously been shady, suspicious and combative suddenly turning romantic, upstanding and solicitous of Jessica.  Characters are made to seem significant then dropped. (Jessica's old cop partner says he'll always be there for her then we never see him again.  A neighbor across the way shoots disapproving looks across the alley every night as Jessica waves with her wine glass but she's never used to provide an alibi.)

"Twisted" doesn't really provide anyone with much of a chance to act.  Judd's OK, but she has to do some silly things (what daughter would store a crime scene photo of her dad's body underneath her old teddy bear and Raggedy Anne doll?).  Camryn Manheim ("Scary Movie 3") is given some particularly silly dialogue as a police lab forensics doctor, but Veronica Cartwright ("Scary Movie 2") is hilarious as a landlord who says her former tenant's murder 'served him right' for being late with his rent and playing the drums too loudly.

Cinematographer Peter Deming ("Mulholland Drive") does little to distinguish the look of the film.  San Francisco locations are mostly limited to the Palace of Fine Arts Exploratorium and Pier 39 (where Jessica's partner has an apartment!?), with the TransAmerica building viewable from Jessica's window.  Early sound is problematic, making Sam Jackson sound like he's lisping.

"Twisted" has the feel of a film that someone tried to fix in post-production and failed. Ashley Judd needs to climb out of this rut or retire.

D-

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