Review by Michael Jacobson
Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, Powers Boothe, Matt O’Leary, Jeremy
Sumpter, Luke Askew
Director: Bill Paxton
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio: Lions Gate
Features: See Review
Length: 99 Minutes
Release Date: September 17, 2002
is our job now, son. We’ve got to
simply, Frailty is the best psychological thriller since Silence of
the Lambs. It unnerves us not
with actions, but ideas. Ideas that
are open to interpretation, and force us to bring something to the table.
It’s a film that involves us personally in a situation we’d rather
not be involved in at all.
marks the directorial debut of Bill Paxton, who also stars as “Dad”.
Paxton has been a likeable movie appearance for a couple of decades now,
but he really gets the chance to prove his acting mettle in this picture.
learn his story in flashback form from his grown son (McConaughey), who has come
to the office of an FBI agent (Boothe) to reveal the identity of their
long-hunted “God’s Hand” killer. There
is a story to tell, and as the men make their way through a rainstorm to an
unholy destination, the tale comes to life.
the story of two young boys, Fenton (O’Leary) and Adam Meiks (Sumpter), who
live a quiet and normal life with their widowed father (Paxton) somewhere in
Texas. But one night, their calm
existence is shattered, when their frantic father bursts into their room with
shocking news. He’s had a vision
of the end of the world and the demons who are currently amongst them.
He’s been given an assignment by an angel to destroy those demons, and
his sons will have to help.
the vision real, or is the father becoming unhinged? It would be the easiest thing in the world to suppose the
latter, but Frailty is not a movie that lets us off that quickly.
By the time the picture reaches its conclusions, we are drawing our own.
In the meantime, we experience an unwholesome terror through the eyes of
young Fenton, who can’t shake the suspicion that his father isn’t well, and
that when he’s “dispatching demons”, he’s actually committing one murder
the younger, seems in tune with his father, and claims he too can see the demons
his father reveals. Fenton cannot.
He doesn’t believe in God, or at least a God who would command
something this terrible. As his
father’s deeds sicken him more and more, it becomes apparent that there will
be an ultimate showdown between father and son…and whose side is God actually
on, if any?
film is everything that is Southern gothic, thanks to the terrific script by
Brent Hanley and the moody photography by Bill Butler.
But it’s also a film that comes down to two key ingredients:
the performances, which are startlingly good one after another
(especially young Matt O’Leary, whose emotional involvement carries the
picture through its horrors), and the direction.
Paxton shows no first-time jitters here, shooting the film in a mere 37
days, getting the most out of his cast from young newcomers to seasoned pros
alike, and treating the story with all the respect and integrity it deserves.
There is no cop-out here, nor any shying away from the difficult
questions. It could have been just
another horror film, but instead, it’s a powerful and moving experience that
delivers more than just fright.
is a modern
masterpiece of terror, one with heart, brains, and an uncanny ability to steer
clear of vacuous fodder and delve right into the guts of a heartbreaking and
frightening story made all the more potent by being told largely through the
eyes of a child.
is a quality anamorphic offering from Lions Gate that deals with troublesome
material…mainly, the fact that much of the film offers very little light.
There is some softness from time to time, but ultimately, there is enough
clarity even in darkness to understand what you’re seeing when Paxton wants
you to, or to keep you shrouded in doubt when necessary.
Brighter scenes come across with good coloring, and only a very light
smattering of grain now and then…hardly noticeable unless you’re really
looking for it. I can certainly
appreciate what a difficult job this transfer must have been, and overall, the
results are quite satisfying.
is a movie that creates atmosphere not only with story and character, but with
sound. Though arguably a simply
told tale, the 5.1 soundtrack doesn’t settle into the groove of a typically
dialogue oriented film. There is
dynamic range and sequences that open up all speakers for maximum discomfort.
Don’t be ashamed if you look over your shoulder at least once…I
admit, I did. The score by Brian
Tyler is effective and opened across all stages.
An extremely effective listening experience!
is a well
packaged disc, starting off with three good commentary tracks. Bill Paxton offers his thoughts on one track with the kind of
amiability you’d expect from him. He
offers thoughts about the story, the actors, the locations, and of course, being
a first time director. It’s an
interesting and informative listen. For
more on the guts of the story and the “theology” involved, you can tune into
writer Brent Hanley’s track, or for more technical information, the
producers’ commentary will fit the bill.
are also two decent featurettes…one is a straightforward “making-of” piece
with cast and crew interviews, and the other is the “Anatomy of a Scene”
Sundance Channel special. There is
an 8 minute clip of good deleted scenes with or without Paxton’s commentary.
The scenes were mostly cut for time, but they are all quite
interesting…Paxton actually cut some of his own terrific material, proving his
lack of ego. Rounding out are a
trailer and a photo gallery.