Frailty is especially difficult to pin down for a film that feels like just another kooky thriller with a trick pony up its sleeve. Dad (Bill Paxton) sees the light and believes God is commanding him to kill demons. Though little Adam (Jeremy Sumpter) is a believer from the start, eldest lamb Fenton (Matthew O’Leary) thinks Dad has gone the way of the crazy Christian. The doubting boy refuses to pray and, in turn, is forced to dig graves for his daddy’s victims; all the while, Adam hopes that his naïve brother will find his way back to the unpromised land. Frailty wears its point on its sleeve: one Christian’s demon is another person’s human being. Yet there’s something more at play here than who’s-the-killer and who’s-killing-who. Paxon’s performance is certainly an eerie one and his direction is surprisingly restrained. And while Frailty itself is less-than-scary, there’s something to be said about a film that plays out like a big-screen spin-off of The Simpsons starring Ned, Rod and Todd Flanders. Brent Hanley’s screenplay is a strategic moral achievement of sorts in that it caters to Christians and atheists alike. His take on faith-mongering is trashy yet evenhanded: yes, Christians are scary but they might not be as crazy as they seem. Frailty’s present-day scenes are relatively weightless though there’s no denying the tongue-in-cheek fervor of Paxon’s retro Christian circus act. Let us pray.
Shadows aren’t as rock solid as they should be on this Lions Gate DVD edition of Bill Paxton’s directorial debut though cinematographer Bill Butler’s lush color palette is evocatively preserved. Soft and sinewy-looking, the film’s smallest details are quite evident on the small screen. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is incredibly robust. Witness the scene where the film’s young actors first enter the Thurman Rose Garden; dialogue is clear and the smallest sounds (here, insect noises) possess a life of their own.
Paxton reveals his gratitude for producer David Kirschner on "The Making of Frailty," a standard though handsomely produced making-of featurette. More thorough is the Sundance Channel’s "Anatomy of a Scene" featurette. Three deleted scenes from the film are included with optional commentary by Paxton. During one omitted clip, the film’s characters are described as Baptists; on his commentary, Paxton discusses his desire to make their religion non-specific. Of the three commentary tracks included here, Paxton’s is the most useful. The seasoned actor seems very concerned with film language and liberally discusses the film’s many inspirations; as a result, Hanley’s commentary may seem a bit redundant. A third commentary track with producer Kirschner, editor Arnold Glassman and composer Brian Tyler focuses on the film’s many technical details. Also included are storyboards from three key scenes and an exhaustive photo gallery.
Lions Gate has amassed an impressive array of features for this handsome DVD edition of Bill Paxton’s overrated yet moody directorial debut.