FRAILTY – Blu-ray review

I vividly remember the day I first received a DVD copy of the “Frailty.” I think I may have won a contest on a DVD Web site. I am glad I watched the movie and happy to have it now on Blu-ray disc. “Frailty” was hardly profitable during its theatrical run in 2002, but it garnered generally positive reviews. Bill Paxton’s debut directorial effort, “Frailty” was one of the best movies of 2002. I dare say that it is one of the best in the horror genre

The story begins with Fenton (Matthew McConaughey) appearing at FBI headquarters claiming to know a killer’s identity and demanding to see the FBI detective, Doyle (Powers Boothe). He claims his brother, Adam (Levi Kreis), is the God’s Hand killer that investigators have been looking for. From that point onward, it becomes a cat-and-mouse game between him and Doyle as he narrates his childhood story. The two young boys, Fenton and Adam, were told by their father (Bill Paxton) one day that the God’s angel had spoken to him about slaying the demons in the world. To fulfill the angel’s vision, their father starts killing people in their own backyard. As the story unfolds, the two sons start to drift apart as a result of their father’s actions. The movie then comes back to the present time where Fenton reveals something important to Doyle.

Although labeled as a horror movie, “Frailty” is a gothic psychological thriller with religious undertones that questions the belief of its main protagonists about God and faith. Furthermore, the movie is a commentary on how far we are willing to go with our religious beliefs. I liked the fact that Paxton showed two boys torn apart by their father’s religious beliefs. The younger kid is totally absorbed by his love for his father, and supports him in his grizzly acts and beliefs. Being an atheist, the eldest son knows that his father is a killer and is not afraid to question him on the existence of God. Not only does the movie show how radically families can be divided regarding religion, but it also highlights the rationality of enforcing our own religious beliefs.

It is interesting how the movie’s overall message is prevalent, even more, in today’s turbulent times. A couple of days ago, I heard a commentary on NPR radio about how a neoconservative religious fanatic group is pushing their religious message. According to them, God’s hand will weigh on President Obama because he is a devil. I don’t see how different this is from the movie’s overall theme. In fact, the movie only validates the presence of religious fanatics living amongst us.

In the acting department, every character excels. The ice-cool narrator played by Matthew McConaughey, the religious lunatic portrayed by Bill Paxton, and the scared siblings all act in their roles to perfection. Notably, Matthew McConaughey gives his best performance to date. He is the main narrator of his childhood events. When he is on screen, he manages to keep viewers on the edge of their seats with his convincingly twisted portrayal. Nevertheless, it is because of his calm composure viewers don’t know about the next trick up his sleeve.

At times, I felt “Frailty” came across as too heavy in its message about questioning our own faith. I gather that the writer was paying tribute to the Old Testament. However, in the process the killings become repetitive and the justification for killings by the father a bit contrived. Having said this, I think it would have added more weight to the story had we known the father’s religious beliefs before he saw the angel.

About two-thirds of the movie is a narrative of childhood events. Even though the first two acts have a lot of compelling moments, the final act is the best because it holds a surprise element that ties everything together. The twisted ending is something that I never saw coming when I watched it the movie for the first time. However, on my second viewing the overall impact of the ending was a bit toned down since I knew the final outcome of the story. Nonetheless, “Frailty” has plenty of moments that kept me interested throughout its running time.

Because of its subject matter, “Frailty” is a difficult film to evaluate in the video department. The image mostly has a dreamy look to it. As a result the image tends to be a bit soft at times. However, I believe it was Bill Paxton’s intention to keep the movie’s palette this way. Since the movie goes back and forth between the past and present, I think the image quality works well with the overall tone of the movie. Nevertheless, the image is consistently sharp throughout. The bright colors rarely pop out, but if they do the colors are vibrant and vivid, with solid blacks, and the print is free of blemishes. The movie is encoded in an MPEG-4 format in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

Lionsgate has included a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release., although the movie does not have many action sequences. However, it is in the killing scenes that the surround channels and bass are utilized, with dialogue still clear and audible. Overall, I could not find any fault with the soundtrack. Also, included with the audio is the option to view subtitles in English or Spanish.

First, we have two audio commentaries: one with the director, Bill Paxton, and writer Brent Hanley, and the second with the producers of the movie.

Next we have two featurettes. The first one is the “Anatomy of a scene,” courtesy of Sundance Channel. The second featurette is “Making of Frailty” (4×3). Both the featurettes talk about how they got the idea for the movie from the Old Testament. The crew discusses their search for actors to play the two young boys in the movie.

Also included is a set of four deleted scenes with optional director commentary, along with storyboards and a photo gallery.

Parting Thoughts: 
“Frailty” surprised and shocked me with its twist ending and religious premise when I watched it back in 2002. With a layered narration, good direction, and convincing performances, “Frailty” is a fine, entertaining piece from director Bill Paxton, and the movie’s message is even more valid today. If you haven’t seen “Frailty,” you could be in for a nice surprise.