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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Frailty

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton
Director: Bill Paxton
Rated: R
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: April 2002
Genres: Drama, Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Powers Boothe, Jeremy Sumpter, Matthew O'Leary

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

Bill Paxton's FRAILTY is a sad, creepy tale about a mass murderer who acts on what he believes are God's orders. Paxton, in his directorial debut, does a masterful job directing, but he would have been better off casting someone other than himself as the lead. Vincent D'Onofrio, for example, would have been much more believable as a deranged killer who acts as God's hands to smite the world's demons. Brent Hanley's script is quite intriguing but takes several needlessly preposterous turns.

The story starts on a dark and stormy night. (Are there any others in thrillers?) Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) comes into the office of FBI Agent Wesley Doyle to tell him that he knows who the killer is in the notorious "God's Hands" case. The agent is played as a cliché of a skeptical and stupid officer by Powers Boothe. (Does Boothe play anything other than clichés?) Boothe's lack of presence in his role is more than offset by McConaughey's stunning bit of passive aggressive dominance.

Most of the story is told in flashback as 12-year-old Fenton (Matthew O'Leary), Fenton's 9-year-old brother Adam (Jeremy Sumpter) and their father (Paxton) live in the small Texas town of Thurman. Since the mother died giving birth to Adam, Fenton has become Adam's surrogate parent while their dad works. After the father sees a light one night -- special effects are definitely not among the movie's strong points -- he wakes his boys to explain how God is going use him to destroy earth's demons. Armed with three magic weapons that the Lord has identified for him, the father starts bringing home those on God's hit list so that he can slaughter them in front of the youngsters. Fenton, who recognizes his father's insanity, is powerless to stop him.

In addition to one easily guessed ending twist -- a few others aren't -- the plot has several problems. The most blatant is that Agent Doyle doesn't tell anyone about Fenton's claims. Instead, the agent drives Fenton alone, late at night, to where the bodies are supposedly buried. Hello! Whatever happened to backup? Flaws and all, the movie still manages to capture and hold our attention from start to finish. But if Paxton had just cast someone else for his part and hired a script doctor, ...

FRAILTY runs 1:40. It is rated R for "violence and some language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes

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