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Seals act as silent witnesses to a series of grisly murders in Philip Kaufman’s Twisted. Why they perform such a role is anyone’s guess, but there they are, leisurely sunbathing in the San Francisco Bay, looking as sleepy and bored as I felt while enduring this apathetic serial killer thriller. Ashley Judd is homicide investigator Jessica Sheppard, a tough go-getter who doesn’t play by the rules at work (she likes to kick perps in the groin) or at play, which consists of habitually picking up random guys at bars. Jessica drinks lots of wine to mask the pain caused by her father’s murderous past, but regularly getting tipsy proves problematic when her former one-night-stands begin popping up dead. Images of fog enveloping the Golden Gate Bridge foreshadow Jessica’s escalating inability to figure out if she’s responsible for the killings, but Kaufman’s ham-fisted direction makes every meaningful clue stand out in stark pop-up book fashion. The red wine! The photo of her dead daddy! The A-list actor who mysteriously disappears from the film for 30 minutes so we can forget he might have anything to do with the crimes! Sarah Thorp’s script, filled with subplots that magically disappear when they’re no longer convenient and narrative misdirections that wouldn’t fool a seal, is twisted in all the wrong ways. Although it’s fleetingly suggested that Judd’s voracious carnal appetites might be related to her volatile temper, Twisted—unlike Clint Eastwood’s similar (but superior) Tightrope—is too afraid to intimately probe the sticky relationship between sex and violence, and entirely drops the issue once the list of suspects has been narrowed down to two. Ensnared in a film determined to play it safe, Judd, Andy Garcia (as Jessica’s partner), and—apparently because Morgan Freeman was busy—Samuel L. Jackson (as the police commissioner and Jessica’s surrogate father) all go through the police procedural motions with unremarkable competence. Their lackluster performances are largely upstaged by those watchful seals, whose piercing plaintive wails during the opening credits, one begins to imagine, convey despair over being forced to participate in such a rote suspense film for no discernable reason at all.

Paramount Pictures
96 min
Philip Kaufman
Sarah Thorp
Ashley Judd, Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Garcia, David Strathairn, Russell Wong, Camryn Manheim, Mark Pellegrino

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