Perfect Stranger (2007)
Perfect Stranger (2007)

Genre: Mystery and Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min.

Release Date: April 13th, 2007 MPAA Rating: R

Director: James Foley Actors: Halle Berry, Bruce Willis, Giovanni Ribisi, Florencia Lozano, Gary Dourdan, Nicki Aycox, Daniella Van Graas, Paula Miranda, Clea Lewis, Tamara Feldman

 


 

A

stonishingly tense and smartly complex, “Perfect Stranger” manages to put a fresh spin on the murder/mystery genre. For anyone under the assumption that every whodunit scenario has already been realized, this film shines a new light on previously exploited, suspect-to-murder combinations. With an all-star cast and a stylish script, “Perfect Stranger” is guaranteed to keep audiences guessing all the way to the shocking conclusion.

When a close friend of muckraking journalist Rowena Price (Halle Berry) turns up brutally murdered after giving her damaging information about the scandalous affairs of bigwig executive Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), Price has every reason to suspect him of the crime. And so she begins a dangerous quest to uncover the always-shifting truth about Hill, his wealthy wife, and his string of internet-initiated liaisons. With the help of her friend Miles (Giovanni Ribisi), the cunning reporter becomes a temp for Hill, quickly exposing a web of lies, deceit, and disloyalty that force her into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse that may find her the perfect stranger – and the next victim.

In a cinematic environment where every murder and subsequent investigation seems to have been previously filmed, it’s refreshing to see a project that, realizing the typical sea of repetition, purposely hoodwinks its audience into surmising incorrect assumptions. Though the basic foundation may be recognizable, the methods for revealing it haven’t been seen in quite some time. The recent trend in mystery ventures is to spoon-feed the audience an explanation at the end; “Perfect Stranger” is no exception, but its use of unpredictable characters and plot twists provide an instance that won’t feel too insulting by the deliberate, closing clarification. The clever script also pulls viewers in the opposite direction of the truth, only letting them wander back on the right track for a moment – before unveiling a revelation that shows they couldn’t have been further from it. The only real flaw to this form of presentation is the employment of several overly ambiguous flashbacks, which hint at something diabolical, but never really show enough to give an indication as to their intentions. Even if its mission is to amplify the climax, leaving the audience in the dark for too long might blind them from the catharsis of the finale – and it certainly robs them of the chance to deduce the puzzlements for themselves.

As with most murder mysteries, “Perfect Stranger” is a character driven story, and this one boasts an exceptionally talented cast. Halle Berry is the troubled heroine hellbent on bringing down the man responsible for her friend’s death, revealing a slightly sinister edge to her character that places an interesting bent on how much the audience may be rooting for her success. Bruce Willis lends his charismatic presence as an adulterous advertising executive, playing against type for a convincing turn that complements the mood of the picture – though it’s a shame his devious aggression appears somewhat subdued. Here was an opportunity for him to have some real fun with the part. And Giovanni Ribisi steals the show as a nerdish computer tech, who also reveals a darker and more calculating side than one would expect from a role that is essentially just a sidekick. He also provides the film’s only real comedy relief.

Don’t be deceived by the lackluster trailer – “Perfect Stranger” is a taut cat-and-mouse thriller with strong performances, trickily designed characters, and enough plot twists to keep the predictability low and the tension high. Though not graced with too hard of an “R” rating, it does support a more chillingly serious tone, thanks to conflicted personas with morals firmly planted in shades of noir, and a process in reaching its winding disclosures far more original than the culprit behind it all. Unless audiences still haven’t forgiven Berry for “Catwoman,” this stranger is one worth meeting.

– Joel Massie

  • 7/10