movie film review | chris tookey


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  Frailty Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
8.00 /10
Dad: Bill Paxton , Fenton Meiks: Matthew McConaughey , Agent Wesley Doyle: Powers Boothe
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Directed by: Bill Paxton
Written by: Brent Hanley

Released: 2001
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 100

A charmingly folksy Texan father (Bill Paxton) has an angelic vision one night… and brings his two sons up to become serial axe-murderers, assuring them that they are killing demons and doing the Lord's work.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Bill Paxton's first feature as a director was dismissed unfairly by some critics as B-movie horror, rather as another actor-turned-director Charles Laughton's not dissimilar Night of the Hunter was in its day.

I am in agreement with Stephen King, Sam Raimi and James Cameron, who see it as a highly accomplished piece of American Gothic. This is one of the outstanding thrillers of recent years.

Frailty is ingenious and atmospheric, with a twist that's as outrageous as the ones in The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense. Like all the best twists, it makes you re-examine the whole movie again, from a wholly new perspective

The subject-matter may sound off-puttingly like a slasher film. Though most of the violence is wisely left to the imagination, Frailty is hard to watch, because it shows boyish innocence and trust in their father corrupted, religious fanaticism turning two ordinary children's lives into horrific nightmares.

The elder boy's anguish as he stands up to his father is brilliantly played by young Matthew O'Leary, and just as splendidly narrated by a blank-eyed Matthew McConaughey, as one of the boys, now grown up.

Frailty could easily have descended into Grand Guignol and many moments deliberately teeter on the edge of black comedy, but the film is so wonderfully acted, and directed with such restraint by Paxton, that it always retains a sense of authenticity. It's very creepy, and packed with tension and suspense.

Just as you think this may turn into yet another smug liberal movie bashing ignorant Southerners, inveighing against religious fundamentalism and the perils of patriarchy, Brent Hanley's screenplay takes the first of a series of unexpected turns, until it ends up in an entirely different genre from the one it seemed to be inhabiting.

Frailty is beautifully crafted, highly original, and a class act. Track it down, if you're in the mood for a powerful, disturbing thriller that will stay in the back of your mind forever.

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