Perfect Stranger

Perfect Stranger is a terrible thriller, filled with contrivance, confusion and a whole lot of tedium. It doesn’t make much sense, it’s never actually entertaining, and I’m having a hard time remembering a single moment about it, save for the ending. I recall that just fine, if only because it adds a twist for the sake of having one, and in doing so winds up making the film even more of a mess than it previously was. This film would be headed direct to video if it wasn’t for the names in its cast list.

Halle Berry stars as Rowena Price, a journalist who, after working on a big story that took her six months, is shut down after her source is paid off. She quits, but is given a new “case” when a woman she knew previously hands her a file on a big-shot advertiser named Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), and then, just a week later, her informant turns up dead. Hill is obviously to blame, so Rowena, along with her friend and computer hacker, Miles (Giovanni Ribisi), decides to infiltrate Hill’s company and dig up as much dirt on him as she can.

However, things don’t go quite as planned. She takes to her new boss, and soon enough we wonder if she even wants to prove that he was behind the murder. And Miles is always seen lurking everywhere — what’s up with him? Or is there someone else who might be behind this killing, like Hill’s wife? Or was it suicide? I don’t think that final suggestion is ever suggested in the film, in large part because the victim’s body was (unsuccessfully) weighed down so that it wouldn’t be found, but don’t rule out anything in a stupid thriller like this one.

There’s no tension in any of the scenes in this film. There’s never a sense of danger, there are never any points where your heart starts beating faster, and none of the questions I listed above actually go through your mind. Oh, sure, the film wants you to ask them, but you never do because it’s such a boring affair. For the most part, it shows Hill as the only possible killer, while everyone else is just there to find him out.

Basically, the only thing that happens in Perfect Stranger is this: Berry’s character walks around Hill’s office, or a party, or her apartment, and acts scared whenever she thinks she might be found out. It’s all supposed to be scary — the main character having to race against the clock or talk her way out of a situation is supposed to make you bite your nails — but none of it works here. Director James Foley doesn’t bring any suspense to the table, making the film have the same effect as watching a sitcom without the laugh track. Something’s missing.

I think that something is intelligence. I can’t think of anything in Perfect Stranger that could challenge you even remotely, and that’s a problem in a thriller where you’re supposed to be trying to figure out who a killer is. It doesn’t end up mattering anyway, as the ending is a cheat and doesn’t make sense, even if you can see it coming if you’ve watched other terrible movies like this one before. Berry’s own Gothika comes to mind, although that one had more suspense than this does.

This is an unmemorable thriller. It doesn’t excite while it was playing, and looking back on it doesn’t bring me fond memories. I really didn’t like this one. It has nothing that makes it worthwhile, even though it tries to promote the cast as the reason it was released at all. Halle Berry has won an Oscar, but everything she’s done since hasn’t shown us that she deserved it. This is no exception, as she somehow manages to overact and still not show a shred of emotion throughout.

I’ll watch Bruce Willis in anything, but he’s not any good here. His character, so we’re told, is supposed to be the kind of slimy individual that you just want to put away in a corner. He paid off several sexual harassment lawsuits, his wife spies on him all the time to ensure he’s being faithful, and so on. Yet, Willis plays him like a nice guy. He’s respectful toward everyone, and while he can be fierce — like when he’s firing someone who spied on his company — he’s not a bad person.

Perhaps it’s not Willis’ fault. It might just be that the script was contradictory and the director told him to act this way. Maybe the character was supposed to be the subject of slander and once we get to know him we find out that he wasn’t really the bad guy. But that’s giving the film more credit than it deserves. None of that is in there, and I’m just spitballing in hopes of figuring out why it went wrong. I don’t think I’ll be able to do it, though, and should probably stop thinking about this awful, awful movie.

Perfect Stranger is a terrible little thriller that, if it didn’t have Halle Berry and Bruce Willis in the cast list, would have been released directly onto home video. I think it should have been anyway. It makes little sense, isn’t at all thrilling, has poor acting, and is completely ruined by its twist ending. This is a movie that you have no reason to think about, no reason to waste your time watching, and no reason to even consider giving the time of day. Stay as far away from it as you can.

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