PERFECT STRANGER - Blu-ray review

There's nothing 'perfect' about Perfect Stranger.

James Plath's picture

There's nothing "perfect" about "Perfect Stranger"--except, perhaps, the way that Halle Berry dresses up every frame she's in. From the extras it's clear that co-stars Bruce Willis and Giovanni Ribisi liked doing the movie because they got to work closely with Berry. Risking a chauvinist label, they basically said she was some pretty tasty eye candy. And they're right. She is pleasing to look at.

But "Perfect Stranger" is supposed to be a tense thriller, and so it's going to take more than star power or a Blu-ray pristine sheen to make it work.

The first act of this 109-minute film by James Foley ("Fear") proceeds with a fair amount of normalcy and interest, even if there are a few lines that stand out in a conspicuously unnatural way, and even though Berry's character is a bit of a cliché. Here, she's a crusading reporter who's just had a big investigative story squashed because of politics. No sooner than she gets slurring drunk with a co-worker (Ribisi) in self-consolation does another story fall into her lap. A woman she's known before gives her the name of Harrison Hill (Willis), who is married to money and apparently is notorious for having affairs with people from his gigantic temp agency. It's not exactly the same sort of story as busting a politician, and it's never really clear what makes it such a newsworthy scandal that would interest Ro (Berry) until the woman turns up dead.

And so Ro goes undercover two different ways, posing as a chat-room vamp to engage Hill and get some sort of unspecified goods on him, and hiring on as a temp worker who somehow has no problem going right to the top and catching Hill's eye.

I won't spoil things for viewers, but let me just say that as things unfold you
expect there to be twists. As my wife astutely observed very early in the film, "You know (Willis) can't be the killer because they have him working on a Victoria's Secret campaign. A company like that wouldn't allow itself to be associated with a killer." Some sleuth, my wife. But the twists that this takes are both obvious (after all, we're only dealing with a limited number of characters here) and unbelievable. In the end, everything goes back to an earlier incident that doesn't satisfactorily explain the Jekyll/Hyde behavior of the "perp."

As the second act becomes tedious and the third spirals into a parallel universe that's too far out for any of this to be believed, you can't help but think back to those clunky lines that betrayed a certain clumsiness. Just as the killer is revealed, the script ends up being exposed as not nearly as intelligent as it pretended.

When a film is disappointing, at least with Blu-ray you hope to be blown away by the picture quality, but there's nothing breathtaking here either. The picture is decent, but not as plasticine as some of the best we've seen thus far. There's a slight porosity, especially in backgrounds, that keeps us from being awed. "Perfect Stranger" is presented in 1080p High Definition at a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.

The audio is a little better, but also less than spectacular. Don't get me wrong. It's not as if the sound is deeply flawed. It's just that you don't notice the purity and resonance of some of the better Blu-ray releases, and there's not as much ambient sound coming from the rear speakers to give the illusion of a room filled with sound, rather than sounds coming from distinctly perceived locations.

There's but one extra, "Virtual Lives: The Making of 'Perfect Stranger,'" and it's "pretty standard stuff," as Dr. Evil would say. Except for the revelations about how the male co-stars felt about Berry and how Ribisi lobbied to make his character more complex, there's really not much in the way of important content. In fact, the first part of this bonus feature feels like a mutual admiration society, with the actors talking favorably about each other. Okay, but what about the movie?

Bottom Line:
On the bonus features we learn that Ribisi was worried that his computer-geek character would end up being perceived as a nerd, and he worked hard to persuade Foley to let him make his character less of a doofus. That was a good move, because this film couldn't have handled another stock character or cliché. There are too many already present, which is why, in the end, "Perfect Stranger" is a perfectly forgettable film. It doesn't pack the wallop that you'd expect, and leaves you, days later, with only a vague sense of the film's details. There are a few graphic scenes that will remain in memory, but for the most part, it's bye-bye generic scenes.


Film Value