Halle Halle Halle High!  Holy Holy Holy Low! Film Review: "Perfect Stranger"

By Omar P.L. Moore/April 11, 2007

Cab Calloway may have put slightly different words to the lead-in exclamation of this review, but those comments are all one needs to know about "Perfect Stranger", a film directed with flash and dash by James Foley ("Glengarry Glen Ross", "At Close Range"), but written with little care by Todd Karminicki.

Admittedly, the first twenty minutes of the film -- which this reviewer did not see due to a misunderstanding -- may have been minutes that could have put the film over the line, but even missing twenty minutes the film is readily accessible for a catch-up on the story's process.


Role playing: Halle Berry, who as investigative reporter Rowena spies in search of the truth about the murder of a childhood friend in "Perfect Stranger" directed by James Foley.  (Photo: Sony Pictures)

"Perfect Stranger" revolves around H2A ad agency executive and CEO Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis) who is spied upon by Rowena, an investigative reporter (Halle Berry) whose childhood friend Grace (Nicki Aycox) is murdered.  When the trail leads in Hill's direction, Rowena infiltrates herself into H2A as a temporary worker with the assistance of Miles (Giovanni Ribisi) a techie working for Rowena, whose crush on her is, well, ubiquitous.  From there, the suspense, thrills and one-liners aren't awful, but are mere gloss and not much substance.

A weak story which meanders with red herrings aplenty usually adds up to trouble, and although audiences may love the twists and turns (especially the final twist) in this film, the overall product ranges from the sublime to the preposterous -- unfortunately landing in the preposterous zone most of the time.  The trouble is that each of the actors in the film are too smart for the material that they have to read (or rather, endure), and the script in turn thinks it's smarter than it really is.  It is okay for a script to play the game of "gotcha!" as long as the journey to "gotcha!" is worth the "gotcha!" payoff.  And in "Perfect Stranger" the journey to "gotcha!", filled with flashbacks, glitz, glamour, sex, violence and Heidi Klum (not in that order), is too frenzied and over-dramatized to be worth the trip. 

At least Bruce Willis, who has of late become super cameo man (last year in "Fast Food Nation", this year a cameo-of-sorts in "Alpha Dog", and cameos in "The Astronaut Farmer", "Grindhouse" and in "The Hip Hop Project" in May) relaxes and has some fun as the heavy in a lead role.  Giovanni Ribisi is decent as Miles, balancing an annoying, cloying playfulness with a hint of physicality and menace, but it is Halle Berry who excels as Rowena, a character that has an edge and sexiness that is both seductive and calculating.  Berry balances her multi-faceted role well -- the character is well-drawn, but in the scheme of the overall film, Mr. Karminicki's script makes only Miss Berry's character mildly interesting.  None of the other characters are remotely so.  Berry makes the most of her role, which is better than anything she's been given to do since winning her Oscar five years ago -- but maybe that isn't saying as much as it should.  Be that as it may, Berry does well in an above-average acting performance.  She and Mr. Willis do their best to keep this turkey from sinking, before the ending bursts the fantasy bubble.

"Perfect Stranger" opens on Friday, April 13 in North America, and is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for sexual content, nudity, some disturbing violent images and language.

Copyright The Popcorn Reel.  2007.  All Rights Reserved.