Movie Review by Susannah Macklin
Starring: Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, Powers Boothe, Matthew O’Leary
Director: Bill Paxton
Bill Paxton’s feature directorial debut about a God fearing father gone mad, is one twist short of being an exercise in how to do an M Night Shyamalan movie. It’s certainly not a bad summary of Shyamalan’s stylings but won’t win Paxton any awards for originality.
When weird yokel Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) walks into a police station claiming to know all about the ‘Hands of God’ murders that have been plaguing his small hometown for years, the cops are loathed to take notice. But as Meiks’ story of his unconventional upbringing at the clutches of his father (Bill Paxton) unfolds, the events become more alarming.
Flash back to dad (Paxton) and his two young sons living an idyllic lifestyle in late seventies America. Although mom is gone and dad ekes out a living as a local mechanic they have enough to get by and their relationship survives through their strong bond. But when their usually together father says he has been visited by an angel who tells him he must do Gods work and seek out the evil in society and banish it – alarm bells start ringing. Dad has clearly gone loony tune and while his youngest boy is convinced he must help dad in his mission to ‘rid society of the demons that live among us – the everyday folk that look just like you and me but are really deadly’, his eldest son Fenton realises it’s his mission to try and stop his father. Trouble is, God has spoken and dad doesn’t want to be stopped. What follows is a chilling and often shocking story arguing for the battle of good against evil. Only problem is who or what is good? And what do we really define as pure evil? By the end what with all the plot twists and ‘shock’ turns you’ll be damned if you know either.
Although born of a brilliant premise, played out through a fairly solid script from first time feature writer Brent Hanley, you’ll still walk away from this movie feeling a little or a lot confused. That all depends of course on how au fait you are with the current trend for sudden changeable endings. Paxton’s direction is inspired in places with enough ambiguity to keep with the rhythm of the storyline, and for a debut, directorially Paxton shows great promise – if only he’d just use more of his own ideas. Paxton is consistent in his acting, though it appears there too he just couldn’t let the chance to be the tiniest Jack Nicholson-esque pass him by at the sight of an axe. It’s FRAILTY’S creepy happenings swathed in daylight that are the real key to success and shout of the sort of ingredients that made Amenabar’s THE OTHERS and M Night Shyamalan’s THE SIXTH SENSE such success stories. However, the sort of piece-it-all-together-at-the-end linearity that made these movies great is lost in an attempt to sustain the meandering plot. But what the hell, if you like lying awake at night feeling freaked out while trying to work out the real meaning of the movie then you’ll love this. If, on the other hand, you’re M Night Shyamalan – you may well want to start legal proceedings.