Frailty (2001)
By: Devon B. on October 23, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Lions Gate (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. English, Spanish Subtitles. 99 minutes
The Movie
Director: Bill Paxton
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Powers Boothe, Bill Paxton, Matt O'Leary, Jeremy Sumpter, Levi Kreis
Screenplay: Brent Hanley
Music: Brian Tyler
Tagline: No Soul Is Safe
Country: USA
No longer content to simply act out pointless crap, Bill "I'm a good actor! I was in Apollo 13, dammit!" Paxton has decided he should be a director of pointless crap as well. But wait! This man who generally has all the stage presence of…hmmmm, Bill Pullman, created what should be a good film, and directs himself right into in his best performance. Too bad the script is much like Shakespeare's Hamlet, baring a tragic flaw that brings it down, a flaw so bad it obliviates anything good the film accomplished.

Paxton is the father of two boys in a seemingly normal American family. One night Paxton is visited by an angel that informs him that he's to help in Judgment Day by destroying demons that only his family can see. Paxton is also told he will be directed towards magical weapons to combat evil with, which he STEALS from other people. After getting all his tools, and giving hilarious logical analysis as to why his special tools are so apparently slipshod, Paxton gets his first list of demons to slay. Too bad for Dad that his elder son is not going along with the plan because he's not mentally challenged and naturally is a little distressed that his clearly deranged father is planning on murdering innocent people.

Much of the film is an examination of coping with insanity, and the family's descent into madness is very well captured. The elder son's plight is one people should empathise with and is one of the best portrayals of a sane person trying to cope in an insane environment I've seen. This extremely gothic film is competently directed, and Paxton's next directorial opus will definitely be something I want to see. Paxton the actor has some menacing moments, which is more than I can say about him in any of his other films. He actually gives a solid performance here, and if he'd acted this well all along, it would have made sense when he rose from B movies to the A list.

Unfortunately, this film has a very major problem: Its scripter, Brent Hanley. I guess this guy thought he was clever. If I'd stopped the movie before the ending, I might've agreed. Sure, the film wasn't perfect and the preceding moments occasionally dragged, but in the finale Hanley truly proves himself to be an asswipe. A lot of writers now seem to feel a movie needs to end with a twist, and Hanley is no different. I would've forgiven Frailty's minor twist being so HIGHLY predictable a blind, deaf guy in the audience should be able to tell what was going to happen, but the major twist is the stupidest thing since The Last Broadcast's ending. The final twist, or "flip" as Hanley calls it, makes character motivations flawed and illogical and is therefore not just dumb but also ridiculous. It is literally like Hanley was sitting around going, "Okay, I've come up with an extremely banal twist, how can I save my screenplay? I know, I'll take the really cheap way out!" The change from steady development to the twists is also extremely jarring and poorly done so everything about the end sucks. It's too bad, because it would have been a good movie without any twists.
Frailty is a newer film, and as such is presented in a really clean 1.85:1 print. The picture is sharp and the image strong. The film is very dark, but the blacks are stark and I had no problems following the action. There are a few minor specks, but otherwise the film looks great.
The audio is available in a 5.1 mix. The film isn't a fast paced action flick, so the track isn't hugely exciting, either. It does add to the film's creepy qualities, and the surround is used well where appropriate.
Extra Features
The DVD includes the trailer, the Sundance Channel's Anatomy of a Scene episode about the film, storyboards, stills, and deleted scenes with optional commentary. Some of the deleted scenes are pretty funny, especially the no more church one. The making of has Paxton rattling off other one word titled movies, which just makes Frailty seem even worse next to all those classics with good endings. Also in the making of is how Paxton got the job and the usual behind the scenes stuff.

There are also three commentaries included: one with Paxton; one with Hanley; and one with the editor, producer, and the composer. I tried to listen to Hanley's, but I ultimately just skimmed to the points I wanted him to justify his intentions on. He tries to explain the stuff, but it doesn't make what he did less stupid. He gets all bogged down in the tragedy of the film's situations. The only tragedy is the end of the script! He also seems to think that people are more likely to cry for a person that abused them than one that didn't. I was too frustrated with the film by this point to be bothered to listen to the other two commentary tracks when I knew no one was going to say what needed saying, "No one ever should've greenlighted this project with the ending it has!"

There're also trailers for The Dead Zone (TV series) and Liberty Stands Still.
The Verdict
This is a tough disc to rate. The pre-twists part of the film would get four Australias, but after the twists, I'd say it rates only one. The DVD, however, is a very nice presentation, and warrants five. The average of those three ratings is a three, so that's what I'm giving the DVD. I would just like to stress again, though, that the film itself is a ONE because of its horrid, undermining, pointless twists.
Movie Score
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