Frailty (2001)
Main cast: Bill Paxton (Mr Meiks), Matthew McConaughey ("Fenton Meiks"), Powers Boothe (Agent Wesley Doyle), Matthew O'Leary (Young Fenton), Jeremy Sumpter (Young Adam), Luke Askew (Sheriff Smalls), and Derk Cheetwood (Agent Griffin Hull)
Director: Bill Paxton


Bill Paxton's directorial debut Frailty is a very watchable movie that is, unfortunately, less thought-provoking than it would like to be. Some viewers may perceive this movie as an affirmative nod to religious nutcases out there but I find this movie's inability to convince me of the credibility of its premise a greater flaw.

The story begins with a serial killer in town known as "God's Hand Killer" (hmm, does it mean that this guy kills God's Hand?). FBI Agent Wesley Doyle is surprised one day when a man claiming to be Fenton Meiks walks in and tells him that he knows who the murderer is - his brother Adam. This leads to a flashback of the time when the Meiks were kids and their father was still alive. Fenton wakes up one day in the middle of the night to learn that their father has seen a divine vision. Demons have taken over the world and the apocalypse is coming, and it is up to the chosen ones like the Weiks to seek out these demons and kill them in the name of God. Fenton can only watch in horror as his father begins kidnapping people and then taking an ax to them in front of the kids.

To say more about the plot will be to spoil this movie, so I'll just stop here. The movie tries to balance between being a horror movie and a psychological thriller, but it fumbles in being either one of them, because Bill Paxton is just not convincing as the ordinary Joe turned religious zealot. His character doesn't seem to be the ultra-religious type, he doesn't strike me as one, and it doesn't help when his vision is more of a biker dude with wings than anything angelic. The kids are very good in this movie, especially Matthew O'Leary that plays the young Fenton.

But the movie really shoots itself in the knees when it plugs in some twists that come out of nowhere, especially the twist that concerns Agent Doyle (why would he do what he did to his mom in the movie?). These twists seem like a hastily-inserted device just to shock. Instead of turning Frailty into a deeper sort of slasher movie, these twists serve only to make it come off rather pretentious in the end.

But when it's trying not too hard to be clever in the final few scenes, Frailty manages to amuse me in that while it seems to come off as pro-religious wingnut, I really doubt anybody who watches this movie will feel like donning white robes and masks and burning down the homes of gay people today in the name of God, not when this God comes off as a complete whackjob. Not when this movie portrays only fat, old, ugly, or female people as villains targetted by the wrath of God. Apparently God chooses only pretty male dudes for his representatives on Earth. Bill Paxton, despite his indie pretensions, is still as much a crackpot as the rest of the sinful, drug-and-sex-coking bunch of freaks in LA. And if I may say so, God bless him for that!

Rating: 84


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