March 9, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 82  

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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Judd’s Twisted never really gets twisted


Twisted
Starring: Ashley Judd, Andy Garcia, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Philip Kaufman

By Mark Polishuk
Gazette Staff


Paramount Pictures/2004
"DON'T STAR IN ANY MO' MUTHAFUCKIN' CRIME THRILLERS, ASHLEY!" Samuel L. Jackson gives Ashley Judd a stern talking (top); Judd later realizes the error in her ways.

Stop the presses: Ashley Judd is in a mediocre crime thriller.

Twisted is Judd’s latest attempt to match the success of 1997’s Kiss the Girls, her only starring role that was both financially and critically successful. This film, however, is more akin to second-rate movies like High Crimes and Double Jeopardy, where the plot never evolves beyond “Ashley Judd is in danger and walks around looking pretty.”

Judd stars as San Francisco cop Jessica Shepard, who rises to the rank of detective in spite of a troubled childhood; her cop father went on a killing spree, taking her mother’s life and his own. Despite being raised and trained by her father’s partner, John Mills (Jackson), Jessica is clearly still haunted by her past, often using excessive force on suspects and going on self-destructive drinking and sexual binges with a series of one-night stands.

Her love life comes back to haunt her, however, as her first case with new partner Mike Delmarco (Garcia) is the murder of one of her ex-lovers. More of Jessica’s former flings quickly end up dead, leaving Jessica to wonder why she is being targeted.

From there, the movie devolves into a pretty standard whodunit. Is it Jessica’s abusive cop ex-boyfriend Jimmy (Mark Pellegrino)? Is it her vaguely creepy psychiatrist, Dr. Frank (David Straitharn)? Or could it even be Delmarco, who spends his spare time following her around town?

The most likely suspect could be the audience, as watching this film would drive anyone to homicide. It is one of those mysteries that doesn’t intend to give the audience clues, preferring instead to just whack off the suspects one-by-one and then reveal everything in a “let the villain explain the plan” scene. Despite this, anyone with even a general knowledge of mystery will be able to guess the killer’s identity pretty quickly.

Kaufman (The Right Stuff, Quills) has made some good films in the past, but does absolutely nothing both visually and thematically to elevate this average screenplay. Everything about Twisted seems tired, including the cinematography (San Francisco has never looked less scenic in a movie) and the acting. The only actor that doesn’t seem to be phoning in his acting is Garcia, who plays Delmarco as a slightly perverted Al Pacino.

Even more troubling is the sense of misogyny that pervades the entire film. Though the point is supposed to be that Jessica eventually proves herself both as a police officer and as a woman, the ending doesn’t support this development. The result is scene after scene of Jessica being browbeaten by men, leaving viewers with a bad taste in their mouths. It also doesn’t help that there are literally only two other women in the movie: Camryn Mannheim as a forensics expert and the little old Asian lady who constantly peeps into Jessica’s apartment.

Twisted could have benefited from a few more twists, rather than following every thriller cliché in the book. Hopefully Judd, who is a good actress if given good material to work with, has gotten Kiss The Girls out of her system and is ready to stop associating herself with these lame movies.

 

 

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