Perfect Stranger

(2007) * R
109 min. Columbia Pictures. Director: James Foley. Cast: Halle Berry, Bruce Willis, Giovanni Ribisi, Gary Dourdan, Nicki Lynn Aycox.

James Foley's high-low career hits another vertiginous drop with the ostensible mystery thriller Perfect Stranger. The director of At Close Range and Glengarry Glen Ross—but also of Fear and The Chamber—clearly had to tuck something between his legs (let's be charitable and say his tail) for this stinker starring Halle Berry, Bruce Willis, and the Victoria's Secret brand.

Berry plays Rowena Price, a pseudonymous star reporter whose latest target is advertising giant Harrison Hill (Willis). With the help of her tech whiz partner Miles (Giovanni Ribisi), Rowena gets a job under Hill and begins an online flirtation with him while drawing connections between Hill and a murdered girl. Of course, the flirtation dangerously enters the real world and—surprise!—not all is what it seems.

Todd Komarnicki's script contemptuously ignores logic and reason in favor of ill-advised expediency, as when Rowena easily lands that job putting her into direct, daily contact with Hill. Later in the picture, a key over the doorsill of someone who definitely ought to know better provides Rowena access to another plot breakthrough (honestly, who keeps a key over their door these days? Not even dunderheaded screenwriters, I'm betting).

Star power does nothing to salvage the picture. Willis and Ribisi hopelessly snap a few pitiable sparks of personality from within a slowly dying-out story, and Berry further tarnishes her 2002 Oscar win by ranging from poutily passable to just-plain embarrassing. As for Foley, his only notable stylistic contribution is framing the picture with eye imagery, a desperate grasp at thematic relevance (see all, know nothing) that fails to take hold.

To my eye, Perfect Stranger is built on the ever-hoarier movie cliché of "the psycho who passes." You know, the person who's so emotionally damaged as to be homicidal, but not so crazy as to fail to appear normal and hold down a job. It's not giving anything away to note that, in developing its complicated but not complex story, Perfect Stranger has not one but two characters who arguably fit the "psycho who passes" mold. By the time the big finish rolls around, you'll be too jaded—too worn-down by the endless, pointless red herrings—to muster an interest in whodunnit.

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