August 11, 2004
There needs to be a temporary moratorium placed on the serial killer genre. Seven (1995) was the last breath of fresh air—everything since has been predictable and derivative. It has definitely played itself out as genre with nobody being able to think of anything new to say or show. Case in point: Twisted (2004).
Jessica Shepard (Judd) is a tough San Francisco police inspector newly promoted to the homicide division. She’s smart and a keen observer of human nature but with a kinky side. She likes to take part in one-night stands with strange men and engage in rough sex (much like Michael Douglas’ cop character in Basic Instinct). With her promotion, Jessica is assigned a new partner by the name of Delmarco (Garcia) and together they investigate a series of murders with the same modius operandi: severely beaten to death with a cigarette burn on one hand and dumped in or near water. There is an additional wrinkle: Jessica has had sex with every victim. It doesn’t help that she has a drinking problem and suffers from blackouts only to wake-up with no memory of what happened. Pretty soon, she starts looking like the prime suspect.
If this film had any cajones, she would be the killer. Instead, it throws up the usual hall of mirrors as everyone around her seems like the potential killer. Twisted trots out the usual cliches: for example, Jessica is the typical loose cannon cop with a disregard for authority. In some respects, her character is a bit of a role reversal in that her actions and attitude are reminiscent of a male cop. Ashley Judd plays it straight which is somewhat refreshing, I suppose. However, her performance isn’t always convincing. There is a scene where she roughs up a bartender for information that is just not believable because Judd tries too hard to be tough—you either are or your aren’t.
This begs the question: what has happened to a smart actress like Ashley Judd? Like Angelina Jolie, as of late, she has been wasting her time and considerable talents with predictable movies like this one. Judd really needs to hook up with a director with a distinctive vision and a knack for picking good material as she did with Michael Mann and Heat (1995). And what the hell has happened to director Philip Kaufman? He showed real promise with The Right Stuff (1983) and The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988). Now, he’s churning out generic thrillers like Rising Sun (1993) and Twisted.
There is an audio commentary with director Philip Kaufman who explains that he did this film to fulfill his desire of making a film noir in his hometown of San Francisco. He wanted to utilize its trademark foggy weather as an important visual element. Kaufman does a fine job analyzing his movie as he talks about the characters, their psychological motivations and how they rate against real cops. However, he tends to describe what happens on screen, which gets tiresome.
“Creating a Twisted Web of Intrigue” is an 11-minute featurette with the usual interview soundbites from the cast and crew mixed with clips from the movie. Judd was attracted to the role reversal of her character. The actress points out that Jessica is not a typical female protagonist.
“The Inspectors: Clues to the Crime” examines the technical advisors who made sure that the police work depicted in the film was authentic and helped the cast look like they knew what they were doing.
“San Francisco: Scene of the Crime” takes a look at the city of San Francisco as another character in the movie. Kaufman takes us on a guided tour of some of the locations he used, including the famous bar, Tosca, a local hangout for cops and celebrities.
“Cutting Room Floor” features ten deleted or extended scenes that flesh out the relationships between the main characters, including an early scene that goes into a little more detail on Delmarco’s mysterious nature.
The problem with Twisted (one of the many) is that the crime thriller has been done so many times and this makes it very hard to bring something new and fresh to the table. So, the film gives in and goes through the motions.