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"Frailty"

Directed by Bill Paxton.
Written by Brent Hanley. 
Starring Bill Paxton and Matthew McConaughey.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  4/15/02 

Folks-- 

In the commercial for "Frailty", James Cameron, Sam Raimi, Stephen King and others hailed the film as one of the best films they had ever seen.  So, right off the bat, you know the film doesn't suck.  See, the strongest thing you can ever use to promote a film is the praise of other respected individuals in the given industry; if this movie scared King, the scare-meistro, then you KNOW that thing must be at least a tad bit disturbing.  This type of marketing is more popular in the literary realm, but it is used to strong effect for select movies as well.

After seeing it, I must say that "Frailty" is pretty good stuff.  Bill Paxton--yes, BILL PAXTON--directed this film.  For my money, Paxton's greatest film moment was his performance as Private Hudson in "Aliens", with the line that my dad and I, even to this day, still joke about:  "It's game over, man...game over!!"  He's been in over 50 films, but this is the first time he has directed and the man shows some deft touch in his debut.

Paxton stars as the father (his actual screen credit is "Dad") of two boys in Texas during the late 70s and Dad has a vision one night while lying in bed:  his mission is not only to provide for his two sons in the wake of the family matriarch's death, but also to kill demons that are roaming the Texan countryside.  What makes this tough is that these demons reside in the physical being of humans, regular folk that have committed sins that God no longer wants on our earth.  So, with the help of three "magical weapons" (which turn out to be just an axe, two gloves and a lead pipe), Dad and the boys--Fenton and Adam--must wait for this angel to deliver them a list of who these demons are, round them up, and destroy them.

All of this business is relayed to us in the present day by Fenton (played by Matthew "I Used to Have Promise" McConaughey), who as the film opens shows up at the Dallas FBI Headquarters to confess to an agent (Powers Boothe).  Since the film is told mostly in flashback, this leads to somewhat of a surprise in the film's final moments.

But, getting to that point is made interesting mostly because of the performance delivered by Paxton.  Rarely does one match the terms "incredible acting" and "Bill Paxton", but here, he's in his element because of how much he made me believe that Dad is just a regular, good father that happens to have a vision.  Not quite a psychopath, not quite a religious zealot, Dad's convictions lie in his faith in God and as such, he never goes over the deep end...at least, in his mind.  So, as he tries to convince his children that they are doing the right thing, or when he tries to get his son Adam to go to bed on time or brush his teeth, or when he has to wield his axe to slaughter more of these supposed demons, nothing seems too out of the ordinary for him.  His children are understandably skeptical of this mission--especially Fenton (played in the youth sequences by Matthew O'Leary), who doesn't buy this vision BS for a second.

The film's dark story is matched by dark cinematography and some twisted visions; even the daytime scenes are tense and uneasy.  And, it is rare in these horror films for directors to not fall in love with lots of blood or gore; I enjoyed the scenes when Dad rears back with his menacing axe and letting the sounds create the vision, not the pictures.  I was more scared by the sound of an axe hitting someone in the chest than actually seeing it, and this is effective all throughout "Frailty."  And, as is also rare in Hollywood releases these days, "Frailty" actually has a pretty good ending that leaves for a few more questions about what you just saw.

I would categorize this as a pleasant surprise, but don't you dare take someone to this movie that gets frightened easily; you'll regret doing that later.  Paxton is great and some story weaves make for an interesting experience.

Rating:  $9.00 Show

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09