Film Review

Directed by Philip Kaufman

Paramount Pictures

Although a formulaic thriller at heart, director Philip Kaufman’s Twisted still manages to entertain, effectively playing on its setting in the San Francisco Harbor area to create a dark and seedy atmosphere. Combined with dank sexual undertones, the ambience gives Twisted the key components of a suspense film to hold the attention of a thrill-seeking audience.

The mystery begins when homicide inspector Jessica Shepard (Ashley Judd) finds herself deeply intertwined in the new series of murders she is investigating. It turns out the victims are all past lovers, and soon Jessica is the primary suspect in the case. The police commissioner (Samuel Jackson) and Jessica’s partner (Andy Garcia) work hard to keep her on the case, but it becomes increasingly difficult with each new murder. Soon, Jessica’s own life becomes endangered.

Judd’s character is nearly identical to past roles she’s had in films such as Double Jeopardy and Kiss the Girls—a strong woman facing improbable circumstances who must prove herself in a thick milieu of masculinity. While she delivers a capable performance, Judd fails to fully portray her character’s deeper psychiatric struggles, and the audience is left perplexed as to some of the character’s decisions and motives. Co-stars Jackson and Garcia play their parts well, but are crippled by the poor dialogue of screenwriter Sarah Thorp, whose script traps the characters in awkward, clichéd language. Even the redemptive Kaufman (The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Right Stuff) can’t allow the film to recover from its overused dialogue.

Typical of its director’s previous work, however, Twisted is imbued with powerful lurid undertones. Judd’s character is confident in her sexual prowess, but her actions are seen in a much more negative light by the male characters. In a spin on the standard established by films such as American Psycho, it is Twisted’s men, not its women, who are victimized and murdered for their activities. Kaufman toys with the underlying sexual themes in his movies, and Twisted’s suspenseful mood heightens the power of this component.

The film also plays a great deal into the psychology of the characters. Inspector Shepard blacks out at the time each murder occurs, and so both the audience and the character are forced to question her mental stability. Such psychological ambiguities keep the audience sufficiently compelled throughout Twisted.

Twisted does not aspire to or achieve anything more than the typical suspense film, but it seems that’s what audiences are looking for most weekends. It provides the dark, sinister, provocative elements needed to keep thriller aficionados entertained, but does not attempt to do more. Even though this could be seen as the film’s downfall, it is refreshing and fun as a simple weekend movie.

—Halsey R. Meyer