When investigative New York reporter Rowena Price (Halle Berry) learns that her friend's murder might be connected to powerful ad executive Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), she goes undercover with the help of her associate, Miles Hailey (Giovanni Ribisi). Posing as Katherine, a temp at Hill's agency, and also as Veronica, a girl Hill flirts with online, Rowena surrounds her prey from all sides, as she and Miles pursue the story that could link not only womanizing Hill to the murder, but his beautiful wife Mia (Paula Miranda).
Review by Louise Keller:
There's an advertising executive with a penchant for dirty sex, a paranoid rich wife, an attractive lesbian minder, an unfaithful lover and a techno-savvy colleague who likes to watch.... These are the supporting players to Halle Berry's Rowena Price, the investigative journalist who wears different masks and is prepared to go all the way in her pursuits. As far as Hollywood thrillers go, Perfect Stranger starts well with an interesting melee of characters and plenty of seductive close ups of the alluring and shapely Miss Berry. But as Berry's Ro gets close and personal with Bruce Willis' ad-man Harrison Hill, the script turns feral. What could have been a taut, chilling experience turns into an onslaught of twists, red herrings and a ludicrous final act filled with melodrama.
In the opening sequence in which she confronts a US Senator with allegations of gay misappropriation, we learn that Ro is not afraid to go for the jugular. 'Actions have consequences,' her childhood friend Grace (Nicki Aycox) tells her, while Giovani Ribisi's Miles Haley reminds her 'Everybody's got secrets.' There is something rather sleazy about Miles, who obviously carries a torch for Ro, but her apparent dismissal of his perverted behaviour is hard to believe. I enjoyed watching Willis' Harrison at work - he is the spoilt brat of the advertising world, who enjoys the power his position gives him both in the workplace and in the bedroom. Jobs must be easy to come by - after all Ro has no trouble in getting a temp job in Harrison's office, even with a new name and obviously no written references. The scenes in which Harrison and Ro are enjoying suggestive foreplay via an online chat are good fun, especially when Miles replies on Ro's behalf, and the Victoria's Secret glam bam is a tease.
The short court drama element towards the end feels as though it has been tacked on as an afterthought, by which time it is hard to believe anything that we see on screen. It feels as though screenwriter Todd Komarnicki has bundled every idea he has ever had and thrown them into the ring, in a last ditch attempt to pelt us with surprises and dazzle us with an unexpected ending. James Foley's direction is competent but the material leaves it wide open for all the gaping holes to be apparent. Far from perfect.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With its marquee worthy stars and the director Glengarry Glen Ross, James Foley, expectations are likely to be high (mine were) but the film is only for those who are less demanding of their thrillers. Perfect Stranger takes too many liberties and has too many weak patches to stand up to scrutiny as a serious contender, but it does showcase Halle Berry and Giovanni Ribisi in feisty roles that keep us involved. Berry is convincing as the driven reporter keen to nail 'powerful men protecting powerful men' and the film's opening holds much promise as she goes into a Senator's office with evidence of sexual harassment/pedophilia that seems to be lifted straight off the recent front pages. But that is soon left behind in favour of a more traditional brutal murder suspect chase.
Bruce Willis is a tad too bland for his character as the flamboyant ad agency kingpin (shoulda got a John Singleton character profile to give him some real character) and the film always drops a few notches whenever we leave Berry's part of the action.
The basic premise is none too fresh either, but without giving away the essentials, let's just say it's a workable scenario for the kind of thriller where the identity of the killer is a surprise revelation. Loaded up as it with a back story, this revelation has far too many impossibilities and improbabilities attached to make it stick.
There are a few nice touches, though, including a short Reebok product placement piece that's quite funny.
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PERFECT STRANGER (M)
CAST: Halle Berry, Bruce Willis, Giovanni Ribisi, Gary Dourdan, Nicky Aycox, Jason Antoon
PRODUCER: Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas
DIRECTOR: James Foley
SCRIPT: Todd Komarnicki (story by Jon Bokenkamp)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Anastas N. Michos
EDITOR: Christopher Tellefsen
MUSIC: Antonio Pinto
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bill Groom
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 19, 2007