Twisted is a psychological crime thriller with a distinct “Film-Noire” flavour. Ashley Judd's “Inspector Sheppard” makes her big entrance, violently bagging a prize criminal and earning a promotion to Inspector, homicide division. The officers there are not impressed by her rather rough handling of the prisoner and doubt the validity of Sheppard's promotion altogether, preferring the theory that the police commissioner (Samuel L Jackson), who had helped raise Sheppard as a child, had given it a helping hand. She begins one of several sessions with Dr Melvin Frank (David Strathairn), Police Psychologist, whom any officer must see after being involved in a vicious arrest. Sheppard claims to be in perfect psychological health, but it's Frank's job to delve deeper into Sheppard's state of mind - which seems to be deteriorating as the serial killer she is chasing appears to be targeting men with whom she has had a one-night-stand...
Judd does a good job of playing a woman who is slowly beginning to doubt her own innocence as she is firmly pointed out as a prime suspect by her fellow officers. But there is not enough in her performance to make it stand out from her other roles as a female officer facing adversity in a crime thriller. She's not helped by a storyline that, for instance, relies on her character recently suffering black outs whilst drinking. Does she even try abstaining just for a night? Erm, no! Sheppard is also seen to have violent outbursts throughout the movie - from manhandling a cuffed prisoner at the beginning, to her lashing out at a fellow officer later on. This and her loose sex habits do not combine convincingly with her highly smart “officer on the promotion ladder” bit, and nor do they realistically suggest some sort of twisted minor schizophrenia. Her character just remains hit and miss throughout. The same is true for Andy Garcia's Inspector Delmarco who suffers a script that is loaded with clichés and doesn't seem to stay true to his character. He starts out as Mr Nice-Guy who gets on with the other cops and leads a content life... then - when the plot twisting starts - he goes back and forth between Mr Nice-Guy and spooky partner. It's all just too unbelievable, most likely stemming from an unwanted side-effect of trying to keep the cloak of ambiguity surrounding key actors until the killer is finally revealed to the audience.
Perhaps the most wasted of all is Samuel L Jackson - not only does he get to play Police Commissioner John Mills, but he also takes on the role of Sheppard's mentor and father figure. The accusation of underhandedness on his part in her promotion could have been further explored, as could the relationship between the two of them. Instead “Twisted” merely enjoys relying on its namesake, using plot twists and red herrings to develop depth into the tale. This is a shame, since Philip Kaufman does a fine job of whipping up a cloud of mystery around where the story was going to dive next early on in the movie. At points it was a real “anyone could've done it” type thriller, as the plot bounced here and there, almost causing Sheppard herself to become twisted mentally. The film manages to encourage the audience to find themselves questioning every character's motive whenever they come on screen; maybe the shrink did it, could it be the cleaner, and who was that mysterious person by the window?! However the cunning sleight-of-hand style storyline soon gives way to the overuse of red herrings, without ever dropping a real clue to make that final reveal all the more relevant.
Twisted is another in a line of psychological crime thrillers that will most likely be forgotten by all who see it no later than when they've returned it to the rental store. As it was - the script could have been more inspiring and the lead actors could have delivered it better. The result is a movie that, while initially keeps you eager to see what's coming next, eventually relies entirely on plot twists to keep the audience entertained.
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