Saturday, October 18, 2014

Movie Review: "Frailty" (2001)

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Director: Bill Paxton
Year: 2001
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) enters a Texas FBI office claiming he knows the identity of a wanted serial killer known as The God's Hand Killer. Fenton tells FBI Agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) that he believes the killer is his brother Adam (Levi Kreis), and that Adam had committed suicide. Fenton explains to Agent Doyle about his childhood and his dad (Bill Paxton), who claimed that one night, an angel of God had come to him and told him to destroy demons. It turns out these demons are really humans and destroying them means chopping them up with an ax. Fenton believes Adam has followed in his father's footsteps. 

As we have said on this blog in the past, we are not religious folks, but that doesn't stop us from accepting the beliefs of others. This movie takes all of the potentially good qualities religion can bring and flips them on their heads. There is no charity, no good will, and no acceptance among any of the characters in this movie, only the earmarks of a psychotic sociopath who happens to be doing "God's work." One of the scariest things in the world is a religious zealot. There is no reasoning with a person who truly believes they are receiving their orders directly from the mouth of God. They can justify any action, even murder, under the guise that it's all part of God's plan and his will. Bill Paxton does a tremendous job as Dad Meiks, who seems like a normal God-fearing man, that is, until he receives his orders to murder "demons" in a vision one night. The switch from good to bad goes off rather quickly, and his plan is to take his children with him into the darkness, well, in his case, "the light." His passion and belief are utterly terrifying to think of in a real-life situation, especially since there are probably people like this out there in the world right now, justifying their bad actions with their belief in God, or Satan, or some other deity or leader, religious or not. Matt O'Leary, who plays younger Fenton and grows to resent the idea of God, and Jeremy Sumpter, who unequivocally believes everything his father tells him, work very well together as brothers, but also play their respectively different-minded characters brilliantly. You can see the strain on their relationship as one brother learns to follow orders and the other is bred to break them.

Since Bill Paxton is this film's director, he also had the job of not only portraying one of the main characters, but was tasked with capturing the essence of all these "bad" parts of religion, too, and we think he did so rather flawlessly. Like "America Psycho" the year before it, "Frailty" walks the line between being a crime thriller and a straight-up horror. It's violent enough to be scary, and yet not bloody enough to be super gory. Even at the film's opening, you're trying to piece together the story as it is being told by Matthew McConaughey several years after the initial murders have taken place. What we are left with is a very dark film with a certain level of ambiguity in that we as audiences must decide if Paxton's character is actually certifiable or truly being led by God himself.

We're not sure why this movie doesn't get discussed or brought up on lists more often because it is a valiant directorial debut on the part of Paxton, one that we continue to enjoy every once in a while.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 73%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
One year ago, we were watching"Return of the Living Dead" 

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