[box cover]

Perfect Stranger

The thriller Perfect Stranger opens Fight Club-style — only instead of the opening credits zooming out of the lead character's brain, they zoom out of the lead character's eyeball. Given that director James Foley also helmed the crisp, smart and nasty film version of Glengarry Glen Ross, one might be tempted to read something into this. Does the eye-zoom symbolize something? Is it warning us to question what we're about to see? Is this mainstream suspense flick going to smuggle in some sort of sly commentary on misdirection and the nature of seeing, yadda yadda yadda? Unfortunately, the answer to all these questions ends up being a resounding "Who cares?" Because after it gets going, Perfect Stranger joins the growing list of blandly made erotic thrillers that contain no eroticism, few thrills, and even fewer likable characters. Every single person in this movie is loathsome. Our putative heroine Rowena (Halle Berry) is a New York investigative journalist who works in an alternate reality where "investigative journalism" involves yelling a lot, dressing up in disguises, misrepresenting yourself to U.S. Senators, and bugging conversations as part of elaborate sting operations. Rowena's tech support in this nonsense is a drunken doormat (Giovanni Ribisi) who's sexually obsessed with her. She decides to use her journalistic powers (i.e., lying and hacking) to obstruct justice so she can solve the murder of the creepy girl (Nicki Aycox) who slept with all Rowena's friends and lovers. In the process, Rowena does a ton of online chatting (thrilling!) and insinuates herself into the life of a powerful ad exec (Bruce Willis) prone to adultery and anger mismanagement. Sounds charming, doesn't it? It's also unpleasantly dull and kind of dopey. Several actors manage the strange feat of looking incredibly pretty while generating next-to-zero sexual heat. And the weak-sauce mystery story massages the viewer into indifference — and then tries to clock us with one Fungo bat of a loopy twist that leaves us questioning not reality, but why we just spent 109 minutes trying to give a damn. Sony's DVD release of Perfect Stranger offers a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras are limited to the featurette "Virtual Lives: The Making of Perfect Stranger" (12 min.) and previews for Sony Pictures titles. Keep-case.
Mike Russell

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