[box cover]

Frailty: Special Edition

Actor Bill Paxton, best known for his comic supporting roles in 1980s films Aliens and Weird Science, indulges his dark side with Frailty (2002), a tight and provocative — if occasionally uninspired — directorial debut. Paxton plays a widower who leads his two young sons on a sudden and disturbing leap of faith when, one morning, he claims to have been visited by an angel who charged their family with the task of destroying demons who walk the earth in the guise of normal humans. While the younger boy, Adam (Jeremy Sumpter), falls easily in line with his father's divine mission, the elder, Fenton (Matthew O'Leary), suspects his father of murderous lunacy but doesn't know what to do or where to turn for help. The two child actors are excellent and, as much of the film depends on Fenton's struggle between his love of his father and his fear of his father's gruesome acts, both O'Leary and Sumpter distinguish the film where it otherwise slips into thriller platitudes. Throughout most of Frailty the overused "holy terror" subject-matter feels tired, like just another tickling nod to the smug cadre of anti-religious zealots who delight in equating faith with psychosis. Within this well-worn theme, Paxton's chosen imagery is also too familiar, settling for small-town provincialism and gothic iconography. Further compromising Frailty's otherwise capable production is Brett Hanley's mostly predictable screenplay, which features two key "surprises" spoiled by their genre-required inevitability. However, one unexpected turn does freshen the film in retrospect, allowing for a slightly greater appreciation of Paxton's competent freshman effort. Also with Matthew McConaughey as one of the sons in adulthood, and Powers Boothe as an FBI chief receiving a grisly confession. Lions Gate presents Frailty with a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. There are three commentaries on board, one from Paxton, another from Hanley, and the third teaming up producer David Kirschner, composer Brian Tyler, and editor Arnold Glassman. The disc also includes a handful of deleted scenes, a "making-of" featurette, a Sundance Channel "Anatomy of a Scene" spot, and a still gallery. Trailer, keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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