Projections - Movie Reviews



Bill Paxson's Frailty sees the perennial nice guy in front of the camera, move for the first time behind the camera, creating an eerie portrait of and mood surrounding a family forever changed by a horrific divine inspiration.

The actor of memorable cinema like Titanic and A Simple Plan does double duty working as director and actor in what is a strange, disturbing tale, thanks to Paxson's unwavering subtle, intense approach to a touchy subject with religious connotations.

Arguably, the best moments of Frailty are contained in its downpour opening with a haggard man telling a Dallas FBI agent that he is Fenton Meiks and can unlock the mysteries of the "God Hand" killings.   Matthew McConaughey is the important, almost possessed Fenton who captures the attention of the doubting Doyle, a G-Man, played by Powers Boothe.

Doyle listens to the passionate Fenton who explains that the vicious acts were from the very hands of his own flesh and blood, his young brother Adam.  Subsequently and tragically, his sibling took his own life.

Much of this brooding, unusual Southern suspenser relies on flashbacks, when Fenton was just 12 years old.  Dad (Paxson) worked as a mechanic, and cared for Fenton (Matthew O'Leary) and nine-year-old Adam (Jeremy Sumpter).  His wife died giving birth to Adam.

The origins of Adam's acts as conveyed by Fenton are manifested by an abrupt disclosure that will radically alter a family dynamic.  According to Dad, an angel has given him the power to embark on a "holy" mission to eradicate seemingly normal folks who actually are the devil's own.  Adam thinks his father's calling is neat, which soon involves kidnaping and axe-wielding along with burial in the Meiks' backyard rose garden.

The narrative, which calls to mind a little of Mary Harron's more morose comedic American Psycho, gets its pulse from Fenton knowing that something has to be done about a calm, but freaky father.  Paxson and Hanley don't really try to be cute as menacing deeds lead to an ending that can be considered as a satisfying twist or a logical end.

From his example as actor and director, Paxson subtly and smartly makes the proceedings scary from a pious, congenial father who is trusting and generous yet carries out a despicable task.  McConaughey gives what Paxson needs from him, a searing ambiguity that fortifies a thriller in sync with the haunting portrayal by O'Leary as his younger self.  The cast and crew embrace this small budgeted feature to make its themes effectively tormenting.


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