by Eric D. Snider
Released: February 27, 2004
There is a character in "Twisted" who I correctly identified as the killer within one minute of his or her arrival in the film. A critic friend of mine did the same thing, and another of our colleagues beat us both, identifying the killer just by watching the film's TRAILER.
Maybe we've see too many movies to be surprised anymore. But maybe, just maybe, "Twisted" is an obvious, dumb foray into the genre of moody, jazz-tinged psychological thrillers.
It's the sort of female-empowerment, woman-in-peril movie that usually stars Ashley Judd; fittingly, it stars Ashley Judd. Judd kicks a man in the crotch within four minutes of the film's beginning, and I submit to you that the purpose of all Ashley Judd movies is to allow her to kick a man in the crotch, at least figuratively, but often literally as well.
The crotch-kicker this time is Jessica Shepard, a San Francisco police officer who has just been promoted to detective. Being a movie cop, Jessica of course is a loose cannon! And she doesn't play by the rules! But she gets results, dammit, so get off her back!
Speaking of getting off her back, Jessica needs to get off it more often, it seems, as she's been sleeping with pretty much every man she meets, in addition to drinking constantly, often to the point of unconsciousness. It is understandable, maybe, why some of her fellow cops would be jealous over her promotion, especially considering the commissioner is her mentor and surrogate father, John Mills (Samuel L. Jackson). The whole thing smells fishy.
Trouble begins when a body washes ashore, and the body is that of a man Jessica had a one-night stand with. That's not reason for alarm in and of itself, of course, given that Jessica has slept with most of the straight men in San Francisco (and maybe some of the gay ones, too, with that haircut). But when a second body pops up, bearing marks to indicate it had the same killer as the first, and this one ALSO was one of Jessica's flings, well, then you start worrying.
Jessica wonders if it's possible she's committing murders without realizing it, and her shrink (David Strathairn) points out that she has major rage issues. Her partner, Delmarco (Andy Garcia), doesn't know what to make of her, wavering between mocking her with the rest of the guys in the police department's de facto boys' club, and supporting her as a fellow police officer. Their lieutenant (Russell Wong), in the tradition of all movie lieutenants, has to give obvious orders like, "I want this guy stopped before the bodies start piling up."
Yawn. This is by-the-numbers psychodrama territory, directed without much energy by Philip Kaufman. I note that several of his past films, including "Quills," "Henry & June" and "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," have been sexually frank and provocative. "Twisted" is not -- but it very closely resembles the Meg Ryan fiasco "In the Cut," which is. Maybe Kaufman should have directed that and left "Twisted" to a director better-suited for this kind of mediocrity. I'm thinking Gary Fleder, but now I'm just being obscure.
Jessica is a lousy protagonist, constantly reacting to what's befallen her rather than taking initiative and acting first -- that is, she doesn't make things happen; she waits until things happen to her, and then she deals with them. How are we supposed to root for someone that spineless? She inspires little sympathy and displays no discernible character traits. This became, for me, one of those movies where I wish someone would get eaten by a shark, just to liven things up. At least that would have been unpredictable, a word that is otherwise unrelated to "Twisted."
Rated R, a lot of harsh profanity, a lot of medium-level violence, some sexuality, brief partial nudity
1 hr., 37 min.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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