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Beautiful bay area-backdrop can't save dopey thriller

Friday, February 27, 2004

By Barbara Vancheri, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Twisted" certainly is.


Rating: R for violence, language, sexuality

Starring: Ashley Judd, Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Garcia

Director: Philip Kaufman


Not to mention ludicrous and a waste of a beautiful backdrop -- San Francisco, playing itself (instead of some Canadian city faking it) -- and a cast led by Ashley Judd, Samuel L. Jackson and Andy Garcia. This is certainly the winter of our discontent, and "Twisted" is yet another big, fat disappointment.

It stars Judd as Jessica Shepard, a gutsy, often foolhardy cop who has just been promoted to police inspector. She is a risk-taker, going after a murder suspect alone or drinking shots of Jack Daniels in bars and picking up men for anonymous sex. Well, to be fair, she usually gets their first names.

Orphaned as a child when her cop-father went on a killing spree that ended with her mother's murder and her father's suicide, Jessica insists to a department psychiatrist that she is in "perfect mental health." Right up until the time she starts having blackouts and discovering she knows the murder victims who keep turning up.

Turns out she slept with 'em all and can't remember a thing after she dropped her nightly tumbler of red wine and passed out. Although her mentor, the police commissioner (Jackson), does his best to protect her and her new partner (Garcia) is solicitous, folks are becoming mighty suspicious about the coincidences piling up.

"Twisted," directed by Philip Kaufman and written by Sarah Thorp, is shot through with holes in logic like one of those paper targets at a firing range.

Is it likely that the homicide department newcomer would be delivering the lecture about how serial killers "sign the bodies"? Would an ambitious, smart woman, even a troubled one, allow herself to pass out nightly when she's just started a new job? Would a cop, even one who's armed, really think there was no danger in picking up sexy strangers? Or not installing a better lock on her apartment door?

This isn't about the protagonist's morality; male movie or TV cops have been cracking suspects in the faces and sleeping around for years. It's about a movie that boasts authentic landmarks -- Pacific Bell Park, Fisherman's Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge, dramatically suspended in clouds of fog -- but little else that is real. Not the dialogue, not the dopey details, not the denouement.

When an overdressed medical examiner, played by Camryn Manheim, says you can tell a lot about a person from a drop of blood, Jessica asks, ungrammatically, "Can you tell if they're a good person?" Of course not, and from "Twisted," you can't tell if they're good actors, either.

Barbara Vancheri can be reached at or 412-263-1632.

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