Movie Review : Frailty (2001)

Every once in a while, news reports tell us of serial killers who fanatically believe that the killings they committed were acts of God or some such thing (although such occurrences are largely unheard of in India, thank God for that!). Frailty is a movie about one such killer.

The movie begins with FBI Agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) arriving in his office to meet Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) who tells him that the “God’s Hand” killer is his brother, Adam. Doyle is disbelieving at first but Meiks tells him how it all started way back in 1979 in his home where he lived with his father and younger brother, after the death of his mom. Meiks’ Sr., played by Bill Paxton (who also marks his directorial début with the film), tells his sons one night that their family has been chosen by God to cleanse the earth of demons through the lists given to him by the Angel. While Adam buys into his father’s theory as their being “superheroes” and “demon slayers”, Fenton thinks his father is making things up or maybe he’s “wrong in the head.” Regardless, fear of his father leads him to assist him in the kidnapping and axe-killings of the demons who “look like humans.” Meiks Sr. has visions about the tainted past of his victims as he touches them just before “destroying them” however, their authenticity is suspect.

Large portions of the film play like 1995’s The Usual Suspects with the narrator telling the police about the incidents through flashbacks. The movie’s ambience is such that the audience is forced to feel throughout that something’s off. Bill Paxton plays his role pretty convincingly as a person who is more a troubled soul than an outright villain, with his fanatical belief growing stronger as the film progresses. Matthew McConaughey and Powers Boothe are good too but special mention must be made of Matt O’Leary who shines in his role as young Fenton. There are no common horror movie tropes here. No jump-scares, no gore and no dramatic doors opening. For a movie that’s about killings, there is little violence shown onscreen. Rather it’s more about the terror of the acts, about how we do things that might be morally wrong, hence the title of the movie. This is as much a horror film as a psychological thriller and a police procedural. It works on a number of levels, with a few blink-and-miss clues added to the mix and the final twists genuinely good, forcing the audience to think back on all that has transpired in the previous 90 minutes or so. That is why I think the movie warrants a second viewing and that’s also why I guess it’s a true thriller.

I sat down to watch the film mainly because of Matthew McConaughey and the fact that it is rated 7.3 on IMDb. The fact that Mr. Paxton directed it added to the intrigue. When the film came out, it received largely positive reviews although it is now counted as an underrated gem. I think horror fans would agree with the assessment.

Runtime : 99 minutes.
MPAA certification – R.
Genre : Crime/Drama/Thriller
Rating : 3.5/5.



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