Perfect Victims

Perfect Victims is a film that attempts to use plot twists as a late-game saving grace. For most of this incomprehensible mess of a film, I had not a clue what was going on. It turns out that this was intentional, because the final few moments explain to us that we shouldn’t have been able to make sense of the ones we saw earlier. We’ve seen these types of twists before, but they were done better in large part because the movie preceding them is still watchable. In Perfect Victims, it isn’t, and the twists don’t serve to do anything but irritate.

Ostensibly, the film is about a wannabe frat boy named Jack (Jesse Bradford), who is smart but spends all of his time drinking, doing home-grown drugs, and performing stupid stunts in an attempt to get into a coveted fraternity. He does this with his best friend, Freddy (Scot Williams), whom he’s known since the two were children. Jack was poor, Freddy was wealthy, and if you think there’s going to be talk about class disparity, don’t worry, as Perfect Victims isn’t smart enough to take that approach.

Both of these men are in love with Anne (Sienna Guillory), who was also a part of their childhood. Yes, all three of them grew up in the same neighborhood and now they’re all attending the same college, although the extent to which they are present during their classes varies from person to person. Jack, for instance, is rarely sober enough to be there. Anne, on the other hand, is almost always there. Again, here is an opposition that might have a deeper purpose but the film is too stupid to take advantage of it.

Not that Perfect Victims wants to make you think it’s stupid. It is filled with a few long stretches of pseudo-intelligent babble, most often delivered sharply by Jesse Bradford. Bradford has a talent for these types of monologues, but I have to wonder if he ever paused to think about what he was saying. Isn’t there a point when making a movie where the actor goes, “wait, this doesn’t make any sense”? When it comes to this film, apparently not.

The drama comes from Freddy and Anne being a couple, despite Jack and Anne having an affair behind Freddy’s back. Except that only really comes up after the first hour, and then it doesn’t wind up being very important. There are maybe one or two scenes — which are eventually rendered completely redundant — where this matters. Apart from them, there’s no actual drama to be had here. The characters do drugs and drink and do nothing of value for a while, and then it becomes a horror film out of nowhere, and then the twists serve to complicate matters further. This is the film we’re dealing with.

It doesn’t help that Perfect Victims looks as if it was shot with a home video camera and edited by someone on a continuous mix of speed and cocaine — life mimicking art, and all that. The cinematography is dizzying, and you often can’t tell what’s going on or who’s doing what at any given moment. The editing is often too fast to show a clear shot of anything, and it’s also done in a non-linear fashion because that’s the cool thing to do when you want to be deliberately confusing.

I should mention that Perfect Victims was shot in 2004, and was finished by 2006. It cost its production company a reported $10 million (on what?), which was likely one of the reasons that the company eventually went bankrupt. It was then shelved, and only got released in 2010. That seems like something of an excuse. Put it aside for a while, change the title from Perfect Life to Perfect Victims, and release it in hopes that unsuspecting victims will pick it up without knowing how bad it might be.

There are some movies you want to see again after knowing the story to see if everything holds up, and to see if the film cheats. Perfect Victims is not this type of movie. It’s too bad for that. You watch it once and then you try to instantly forget that you just wasted 100 minutes of your life on it, and that a group of people decided to spend $10 million making it. It’s baffling how anyone read this script and decided that it was a good idea. A better plan would have been to throw it in the trash.

This extends to the actors, who really should know better. Perfect Victims isn’t the lucrative, high-budget production which gives out a good paycheck, so it’s worth doing regardless of its quality. Jesse Bradford has charisma and a natural wit, but both of those factors can’t help the dialogue sound anything but stupid. None of the actors come out from this project unscathed. Their agents should be fire. It should be hidden on resumes, preferably with copious amounts of whiteout, allowing everyone to be aware that a mistake was made.

Perfect Victims is a mess of a movie that is almost worth watching just to see an excellent example of how not to do it. The script is awful, the direction is sloppy, the editing ensures nothing makes sense, the performances are poor, and the film wants to make you think it’s smart, even when it’s less intelligent than the budgerigar who keeps you up at night even though it’s dark and it should be aware that it’s sleeping time.

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