Movie review in the Friday, Feb. 27 Oregonian....
Newly minted homicide detective Jessica Shepard (Ashley Judd) has a problem. Several, actually. Her parents died in a murder-suicide. She can't control her temper. She's drinking too much wine and blacking out.
Oh, and someone's killing every single guy with whom she's, um, "had relations."
Who's the culprit? Her new partner (Andy Garcia)? Her police-chief mentor (Samuel L. Jackson)? Her obsessive ex-boyfriend (Mark Pellegrino)? Her sexist co-workers? The old woman who lives across the street? Or, as Det. Shepard herself suggests, "Do you think it's possible to do things behind your own back?"
Such is the tale "Twisted" tells -- and it's not exactly the first time we've heard this story. (In fact, Bruce Willis had the same problem with someone killing his lovers in 1993's "Striking Distance"; both movies even feature our heroes zipping around in police boats.) But with entries in the serial-killer-mystery genre piling up like so many clubbed seals, maybe it's too much to hope for an original story. (Hell, maybe it’s too much to hope that every other one of them won't star Ashley Judd.) Maybe all one can hope for is a clever director, good performances, and dialogue that doesn't spit in your face.
Well, they got a director. Philip Kaufman has talent. He helped dream up the story for "Raiders of the Lost Ark." He directed "The Right Stuff" and "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" and an awesome 1978 remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." But he's lost his way in the New Hollywood. Between "Twisted" and 1993's "Rising Sun," Kaufman seems to have thrown up his hands -- resigned to catch the tail end of whatever narrative trend slumped its way through Tinseltown's development offices. And "Twisted," to be sure, is a total snore.
Oh, the movie's handsome to look at, dominated by a misty San Francisco skyline that dwarfs our characters. (This is the sort of thriller where cops study a dead body while a packed sports stadium glistens across the bay like a dream palace.) And Judd gives one of her better performances, looking like she just wandered in off the set of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
But there's also this big, dopey elephant in the room -- the big, dopey script by Sarah Thorp. Words cannot describe how weak some of Thorp's dialogue is. Well, actually, some of the words from the script can:
Ashley Judd [talking about how she likes to eat]: "I get hungry."
Andy Garcia [leaning in to kiss her]: "Me, too."
Camryn Manheim [playing a forensic biologist]: "You can tell a lot about a person by a drop of their blood."
Ashley Judd [nervously]: "Can you tell if they're a bad person?" [No! No, you can't!]
The story's ill-structured, too: "Surprise" plot twists are telegraphed so far in advance that you're constantly outsmarting Judd's character -- you feel like a chess Grand Master trouncing a kid at Candyland. And if you keep blacking out night after night after drinking the same bottle of wine -- waking up each time with another boy-toy dead as a doornail -- for Pete's sake, at least change vintages!
There's this perfect final moment in "Twisted" where someone gets killed and flops into the bay, and a bunch of sea lions in the background start honking away. It's unintentionally funny, and just perfectly sums up the contempt the filmmakers have for their audience. If they dish up poorly staged sex and mayhem, we'll bleat in response -- and fill their coffers with cash. Well, swim around this one.
(94 minutes; rated R for violence, language and sexuality) Grade: C-minus