Twisted (2004)

When people talk about terrible, generic thrillers which do nothing to excite or challenge an audience, they’re talking about films like Twisted. There isn’t a single moment in this movie that is worth seeing, and not a single scene that’s even anything beyond being competent — and there are few of those. It’s a painfully dull movie, too, which is the biggest sin a thriller can commit. How can something go so wrong and be such an awful watch?

It begins at the screenplay level and doesn’t improve from there. In lieu of character development there are twists. Instead of a coherent plot, there are twists. And, in addition to the twists, there are more twists. It’s almost as if the film is called “Twisted.” The problem with this, apart from giving us absolutely nothing to watch except the twists, is that the twists are predictable and easy to figure out. It’s a whodunnit, on where you’ll figure out who did it early on because there’s no other reason for the character to exist — even though the film tries to hide the murderer by not really giving the audience a fighting chance.

Isn’t that an odd situation to be in? If you’ve seen a few of these types of movies, you’ll figure it out early on, even though the film cheats in order to hide the resolution to the central mystery. The contrivances start stacking up and while the film wants you to suspect one person, she’s the central character and because of all the hiding the film does, you can pretty much check her off the list. In fact, you can cross off most characters, leaving only one, implausible as he or she might be, as the most likely person.

The plot: Police officer Jessica Sheppard (Ashley Judd) recently pulled in a wanted bad guy, so she’s been promoted to the homicide division. Her first case involves a body washing up on the local beach. The twist: she has slept with the deceased. Another body, and another former lover. Jessica drinks at night and passes out, only to wake up to a phone call to investigate a new body. Oh, and her father snapped one day and killed her mother and himself, so you know she could have a mean streak.

She is the prime suspect of her own investigation. In addition, there’s her partner (Andy Garcia), who might be a little creepy but might not. Those are really the only two suspects the film gives us. There are two other prime characters: A psychiatrist (David Strathairn) and the Police Commissioner (Samuel L. Jackson), the latter of whom raised Jessica since her father’s incident, as he was her father’s old partner and presumably felt some sense of responsibility for her.

None of this matters. It’s all about trying to figure out who killed everyone, and why. The film won’t tell you who, and once it explains why you’ll want your 90 minutes back. I don’t think it was ever explained how the killer knew that Jessica had slept with each of the victims, or why framing her as the prime suspect would be a good idea in the first place, but I suppose that only matters if you care about characters and motivation, which is something none of the filmmakers did.

There’s no sense of atmosphere, no building of tension, and no characters thought about for more than a couple of seconds. It’s not clever, it’s not fun, it’s not scary, it’s not intellectually stimulating — it’s nothing but terrible filmmaking and abhorrent storytelling. There are a lot of whodunnit out there, and this is one of the most forgettable ones I’ve ever seen. If it wasn’t for the magic of the internet, I wouldn’t have even been able to remember the main character’s name.

If there’s one thing that the film did well, it’s using different areas of San Francisco as backgrounds for each scene. You really get the feeling that you’re in a specific city, which is better than Genericville, the town of most movies. A specific locale gives a feeling of realism. There’s only so far this can go, however, and it doesn’t come close to saving the absolute disaster that is the rest of the film. One good element in a sea of awfulness hardly registers.

How this script managed to attract some of the cast members who wound up in the film is beyond me. Ashley Judd, Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Garcia, David Strathairn — these are all good actors who have turned in great performances. They’re all flat here, seemingly in it just for the paycheck. And considering Twisted‘s budget was over $40 million, and it didn’t even need a quarter of that for everything shown on-screen, I have to continue to think everyone showed up for the money. Or, at least, I hope that’s why they’re in it.

There is so little to enjoy about Twisted that you should forget that it exists and end your relationship with it there. It doesn’t have any one moment that truly works, and the whole package isn’t much better, being a boring, incoherent, generic thriller filled with flat acting and stupid plotting. Do you know where this movie belongs? On television, where you can watch it for free. And the commercials won’t even ruin anything. Nor will any scenes cut for running time issues. Please never see this movie.

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