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