Mediocre acting, fair to middlin' plot, and a lack of any real suspense, even if there are a few interesting actors, shots and sounds, does not a great thriller make. It makes an almost entertaining film like Twisted. I love the excitement a good thriller brings, and can often watch them several times, though I know the outcome, but The Client this ain't.
Jessica Shepard (Ashley Judd) is a tough-as-lavishly-painted-nails cop who gets promoted to homicide at the beginning of the film. Haunted by her parents' gruesome death when she was a young child, she is a tortured soul and severe wino. She was raised by her father's partner, John Mills (Samuel L. Jackson) and has immersed herself in police work. She has little social life, save, random sexual encounters. Within the first few days of her new job, she finds one of these men beaten to death after another night of blackout inducing binge drinking. More former sex partners wind up dead after lost nights and she begins to wonder who is after her, suspecting even herself. Another likely culprit is her new partner Mike Delmarco (Andy Garcia), who has come to know her habits intimately. He, like all her other men, turns into an addiction she is unable to resist. David Strathairn plays Dr. Melvin Frank, the bureau appointed psychiatrist, who serves the purpose as a way for the audience to give voice to Jessica's past and doubts.
I didn't mind the slightly overdone tough female cop character that Judd portrayed from the opening scene of Twisted...she was just too cute. And powerful supporting actors can potentially save a blundering lead character. She out-cops an ex-boyfriend and fellow detective as Mills quizzes her on the stats of random bar patrons and this, too, was trite, but bearable. But Shepard makes too many mistakes and poor choices for me to really believe she could make such a stellar police officer. It was akin to watching the frightened cheerleader attempting to escape the monster in a horror movie by just standing there screaming or running upstairs instead of out the door. Likewise, Shepard opens doors she should not, drinks when she's most vulnerable and fumbles her weapons at the most inopportune times, despite her rigorous training.
The plot, too, was as thin as Judd's bony arms. I found the initial storyline engaging but its implementation fell flat. The four murders are virtually the same and the stakes are only slightly raised with each. This, combined with shots of Shepard's wine sliding down her gullet and her bleary eyed looks in the morning, becomes very repetitive...and not in that how-much-can-you-sit-through 70s conceptual art, way either. The sinister entanglement of Jessica's mind and reality are not opened slowly and delicately revealing increasingly sticky plot twists, but laid completely bare and obviously...and not in that in-your-face 70s conceptual art way either. For you suspense fans, whom I would expect would be those most likely to want to see Twisted, your hunches will almost always be right and your lack of trust will lead you right to the killer many minutes, to nearly an hour, before he/she is revealed.
Two small saving graces were the score and the cinematography. Though nothing exceptionally innovative, the fog enveloped and watery San Francisco shoreline shots, along with the heavy fullness of the clouds hovering under the Golden Gate Bridge, evoke a beautiful and haunting harmony. And this creepy calm is echoed in the score, which sounds more like a strange and creepy sci-fi/horror movie, a la Donnie Darko.
Twisted's small moments of interest were not nearly enough to keep me on the edge of my theater seat, and just barely not enough to make me want to haul myself out of the house to snag it at the local video rental either. I would watch it on cable television, but only if the commercials were decent. Twisted just wasn't quite twisted enough.