Perfect Stranger
R
Entertainment: -1/2
Acceptability: -4

Halle Berry. Bruce Willis, Giovanni Ribisi, Gary Dourdan. Psychological Thriller. Written by Todd Komarnicki. Directed by James Foley.

FILM SYNOPSIS: When investigative reporter Rowena Price (Halle Berry) learns that her friend's murder might be connected to powerful ad executive Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), she goes undercover with the help of her associate, Miles Hailey (Giovanni Ribisi). Posing as Katherine, a temp at Hill's agency, and Veronica, a girl Hill flirts with online, Rowena surrounds her prey from all sides, only to discover that she isnt the only one changing identities. The closer we get to learning the truth, the more we understand how far people will go to protect it.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Its quite a coincidence; Im working on a column concerning the constant use of obscene and profane language, at the same time seeing a movie that contains nothing but obscene and profane language. Halle Berry plays a reporter bent on bringing down corporate and political big shots with secret sexual lives. She plays her part like a man. Oh, she doesnt give up looking like a runway model, from swanky apartment to designer clothing, but her behavior is just short of a dock worker. She swears with the best of them (none of these people could express anger or frustration without the f-word), shes pushy, bossy and able to quit her job in a huff, evidently financially secure enough to tell the editor of a major NY City paper to go blank himself.

Whenever she returns to her upscale apartment, she opens a beer and drinks from the bottle. No Chardonnay for this 21st century tough girl. I thought about the old cigarette ads aimed at women proclaiming, Youve come along way, baby.

This tough, sexy, new-day woman may appeal to modern audiences (as long as they dont have to live with her), but then theres this dopey, transparent script with which they must contend. Our heroine starts out hammering a conservative political figure (we know hes conservative because he wears a lapel flag and denounces homosexuality). She confronts her prey with intimate photos of him and a young male page. Take that, conservatives. (She takes joy in exposing this man. Exposing him would be just, but the effect it would have on family and others should diminish any joy at revealing this crime. Not to her. She and her cohorts celebrate.) Later, in a fit of rage, she manages to hurl a couple of slings and arrows at Bush and the handling of Iraq. (Ever notice how the Hollywood folk never take a poke at democrats? Youd think they could get a joke or two out of that Congressman with the $90-grand in his freezer. Not that Im implying he was guilty of a crime. Hes probably just mistrustful of banks. Or, perhaps he was holding it for a friend who is mistrustful of banks. But I digress.) She keeps waking up from nightmares about her childhood. As a child, her father figure liked to see her taking baths. We begin to realize she has her own demons haunting her.

When her paper wont print her story of the hypocritical conservative politician (the first of many hard-to-believe script components), she quits, then suddenly finds herself hot on the trail of an ad man who may have killed a blackmailing blonde. Its only then that we suspect all is not as it seems. Did the Bruce Willis character really commit the crime? Or was it his wife? How about her own associate who keeps his romantic feelings so hidden that it is a complete surprise to our intrepid reporter when she discovers his secret room filled with her photos? After all, the further discovery of pictures reveals her partner with the dead girl, the two having been photographed during kinky sex. (I never could figure out who was taking the photos of the two having kinky sex.)

As the story progressed, the grungier I felt. Everyone lives in a haze of alcohol abuse, cynicism and vulgarity. No one is above abusing the sanctity of marriage, yet they are each angered when someone betrays them. For example, after discovering an employee is a spy and having physically thrown said employee from his office, in front of the entire staff, Bruce Willis later says you dont cheat on a friend. Or, words to that effect. Evidently, he doesnt see his beautiful wife as much of a friend, because he does a whole lot of cheating on her.

I cant describe it further as I would be giving the ending away, though I suspect youll figure it out a long time before the movie characters do. Nothing is as it seems usually a good element for a suspense thriller, but completely mishandled here. Its all silly, nonsensical and crude. If I were allowed the proverbial one movie to take along while being stranded on a desert island, this sure wouldnt be it.

Video Alternative: The Wrong Man. Hitchcock unnerves with this tense drama concerning a man falsely accused of a robbery, with disastrous ramifications. Henry Fonda stars in this compelling mystery drama, where justice ultimately triumphs.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Summary
Crude Language: Several crude sexual comments.
Obscene Language: Around sixty, mostly the f-word, though the s-word and others are well represented.
Profanity: Two profane uses of Gods name, coming from the lead.
Violence: We see a decomposing corpse in the morgue, this causing the lead to throw up; later we see photos of the dead body; a man is brutally thrown around his office, ultimately receiving several bloody cuts. A man gets knifed in the gut. A man threatens to punch a woman; we see a sexual predator making advances to a little girl; a child molester is bludgeoned with a fireplace poker. A mother and child hide this dead body. Why I do not know as it was in self-defense. Blood: Some blood.
Sexual Intercourse: A couple of graphic sexual situations. People enter chat rooms on the Internet and make sexual comments toward each other.
Nudity: We see a nude corpse and we see the leads naked back.
Homosexual Conduct: Theres a lot of talk about lesbianism, as one of the side characters is supposed to be one. We do not see any gay enactments.
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: Several graphic sexual discussions.
Drug Abuse: Theres a great deal of drinking throughout, at least one character being an alcoholic.
Other: None
Running Time: 109 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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