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Perfect Stranger Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 November 2007

Image In 1999, “The Sixth Sense” had moviegoers in a tizzy over its now famous twist ending. Emphatic water cooler discussions were had and audiences went back for repeat viewings, looking for clues as to how they were duped. The masses loved the clever trickery so much, the film went on to gross more than $293,000,000 domestically and garnered six Oscar nominations. “The Usual Suspects” used a similar formula just four years earlier with similar results. While the twist ending has been used for years, Hollywood smelled a profitable trend and proceeded to pump out a steady stream of formulaic movies relying on the “I didn’t see that coming” conclusion.

That trend continues to this day, and with very few exceptions, the films are complete garbage. Usually littering the horror and thriller genres, these movies have a generic manufactured quality with plenty of implausibility and predictability to boot. Sometimes the film is actually decent and stands on its own, but then they throw in a twist that’s supposed to make it seemingly that much better. See the French horror film, “Haute tension” for a prime example. Then there’s “Perfect Stranger” which is the exact opposite. The film is just slightly better than a waste of time, and then with ten minutes left, the audience is fed a ridiculous twist that takes the remainder of the story just to explain.

Rowena Price (Halle Berry), known as “Ro” to her closest friends, is an investigative reporter for the New York Courier, the film’s faux New York Post. After her big story exposing the Senator’s gay love affair with a former intern is brushed under the rug, Ro bumps into old friend Grace Clayton (Nicki Aycox) in the subway. It seems that Grace has been having an affair with hotshot advertising mogul Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), but Hill has cut her off and she’s out for some good ol’ fashioned revenge. Hill has been known for his extramarital affairs, but is now under heavy surveillance by his wife, who serves as the source of wealth and financial backing for the firm. The next day, Grace turns up brutally murdered, and Ro sets out to avenge her friends death and pin the rap on Hill, while getting herself another high-profile story in the Courier. In order to do this, she must link an e-mail address Hill used to communicate with Grace, to Hill’s computer. With the help of fellow reporter and hacker extraordinaire Miles Haley (Giovanni Ribisi), Ro gets a job at Hill’s firm posing as a saucy temp. It’s not long before she catches Hill’s eye and the sexy game of cat and mouse begins.

As with any half-decent film employing a twist ending, the events leading up to the twist take on a different meaning upon second viewing, due to its new context. “Perfect Stranger” has none of that. After the credits roll, there’s not a single scene that comes to mind that will have you thinking, “Ohhhh, now I get why she was doing that!” In fact, the only thing you’ll be saying to yourself is, “Why?” The film fails to keep you involved leading up to its twist, and by the time it’s revealed, you really don’t care.

So why then would two A-list actors sign on for such crap? I think Bruce Willis said it best in an interview discussing the level of difficulty in playing his part: “Not a hard day at the office. Go to work and flirt with Halle Berry.” Then he flashes that trademark million-dollar smirk, and all questions are answered.

“Perfect Stranger” comes to Blu-ray in full 1080p, using the AVC MPEG-4 video codec. Director James Foley and cinematographer Anastas Michos used what they like to call a “hot fudge” visual style, setting rich dark hues against bright backgrounds and surfaces. The result is stunning, with plenty of glossy images that shine in hi-definition. After close examination, I have to say this appears to be a flawless transfer. The source is pristine with no signs of dirt or dust. Blacks are deep with excellent shadow delineation and I never spotted even the faintest trace of video noise. Contrast is also excellent with consistent three-dimensional qualities. Seeing as this isn’t a high-profile release, I can only hope that this will now be the standard for all future Blu-ray discs, regardless of whether or not it’s one of the studio’s biggest cash cows.

The audio also gets the first class treatment with an uncompressed PCM 5.1 surround track. This isn’t a sound effects-heavy film but everything from the highs to the deepest bass is wonderfully clear. Dynamic range is great with all the dialogue being perfectly balanced amongst the ambient sounds and score filling the surround channels. This won’t be the go-to flick when showcasing your sound-system, but it’s exactly what you should expect from a quality Blu-ray release.

Sony skimped on the special features for this disc, although I highly doubt we’ll ever see a “Perfect Strangers” special edition, nor will anybody be crying for one. What we do get is a standard issue, twelve-minute featurette fluff-piece with cast and crew talking about how great it was to work with so-and-so and why they were drawn to such an amazing script. This stuff has become so familiar, it’s nearly impossible to get through unless you truly love the film. On the other hand, it’s presented in full 1080p and looks darn good, which is about the only positive thing I can say about it.

“Perfect Stranger” is another in a long line of formulaic twisty thrillers from the Hollywood schlock machine. Devoid of any originality, suspense, or thrills, not even a superb audio/video package can bring me to recommend this one. My only hope is that this release is a sign that more and more future Blu-ray discs will get the same top-notch transfer, regardless of the film’s merit.

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