A Deeply Imperfect 'Perfect Stranger' Halle Berry stars as a newspaper reporter in Perfect Stranger, investigating bad guy Bruce Willis. But the facts get fuzzy, and the film may have you asking yourself what's going on — and why it was even made.



A Deeply Imperfect 'Perfect Stranger'

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Okay. So it's only April 13th. But, you know, summer is just around the corner when Hollywood starts trotting out its big star vehicles. One of the first of the season is "Perfect Stranger." Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan had a look, and he says the only thing perfect about it is the title.

KENNETH TURAN: There's been a lot of hand-wringing lately about the cost to society of the possible demise of newspapers. But one major negative consequence has been overlooked. What the heck are movies like "Perfect Stranger" going to do for intrepid heroines if newspaper reporter is out in the running?

It's true that Rowena Price, ace investigative reporter for the New York Courier, is not exactly Lois Lane material. As played by Halle Berry, she's introduced doing things that would not endear her to the Pulitzer board, but no matter.

God, Rowena says triumphantly, I love this job. This is the movies, after all. And when an old friend turns up murdered, it's natural for Rowena the reporter to launch an investigation of her own into the prime suspect, played by Bruce Willis. So much information to gather, so little time.

(Soundbite of movie, "Perfect Stranger")

Ms. HALLE BERRY (Actress): (As Rowena Price) Okay. So he's got anti-spyware on his computer. There's a big freaking sign that says stop in the name of Spyrate.

Unidentified Man: Spyrate? Oh, he's definitely hiding something.

Ms. BERRY: (As Rowena Price) It was a leak so they probably went in a lockdown. But what do I do now? He's asking for a password?

Unidentified Man: Ah. It's new. Look, I can get in but it will take a few minutes. Just take the flash drive out. We'll do it later. All right? I'm sorry.

Ms. BERRY: (As Rowena Price) Sorry. (Unintelligible) sorry.

Unidentified Man: Well, I don't...

Ms. BERRY: (As Rowena Price) Well, tell me something...

TURAN: "Perfect Stranger" is a star vehicle set in New York, the city that never sleeps or even takes naps. It's an acceptable thriller, neither the worse one you've seen, nor the opposite. But the question of why this one was made is more of a puzzle than who did the awful deed.

By the time you figure these questions out, you no longer care about the answer to either one. On the most basic level, "Perfect Stranger" got the go-ahead because two bankable stars agreed to be in it. So watching it is kind of like watching the visual echo of a business deal, or more specifically a merger between two powerful corporations, each with its own assets and skill sets.

Berry gets to look great and dominate the picture. Willis, who by this time can do these roles in his sleep, is likely telling the truth when he says he signed on because of the working conditions. Quote: "Not a hard day at the office. Go to work and flirt with Halle Berry."

(Soundbite of movie, "Perfect Stranger")

Mr. BRUCE WILLIS (Actor): (As Harrison Hill) (Unintelligible) worry about you? You paid attention.

Ms. BERRY: (As Rowena Price) I do. For instance, I noticed that wedding ring.

Mr. WILLIS: (As Harrison Hill) Oh. Yes, I am married. So what?

Ms. BERRY: (As Rowena Price) So what are you doing here with me?

TURAN: "Perfect Stranger" offers lots of misdirection and closing twists as it plays with the notion of who's playing who for a fool. By the time everything falls into place, however, it doesn't much matter. The best thrillers don't just show up for the closing credits. They are involving all along the way. That's where "Perfect Stranger" goes imperfectly wrong.

INSKEEP: You can hear Ken Turan every Friday right here. He reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and for the Los Angeles Times.

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