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Twisted review

Joe Eszterhas' era of sex-drenched thrillers has hopefully coughed up its last ball of pus in this wheezing genre entry. Part woman-in-peril potboiler of the kind Ashley Judd is `famous' for (Double Jeopardy, Kiss The Girls), part psychosexual whodunnit in the style that Eszterhas is infamous for (Basic Instinct, Jade), it's almost entirely bad. Not least because it refuses to acknowledge its ludicrous nature.

Hard to credit that the director is actually The Right Stuff's Philip Kaufman, a talented type who once managed to caress similarly hokey material into impressively freaky shape with his 1978 remake of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. No such intelligence and/or imagination is on show here: Twisted is strictly paint-by-numbers, a glossy studio job that borders on criminal given the actors involved.

The film is not without the occasional spooky tinge, most notably in an opening confrontation when Judd finds herself with a knife at her throat. Any tension soon evaporates though, Judd vanquishing her assailant in ridiculous fashion before heading for a bar to get shit-faced. Which would be fine if it wasn't for our leading lady's clunky attempt at blue-collar braggadocio.

Then again, Judd can hardly be blamed for failing to convince as a real cop. Those recriminations should be laid at the feet of scriptwriter Sarah Thorp, whose foolish doodles demand the actress divide her time between cavorting with creepy guys and guzzling wine until she's absolutely blotto. Not much to work with, especially when you're expected to balance a thesping tightrope littered with red herrings: is she crazy or sane, stable or fragile? Answer: don't care.

As for the other performances, old pros Jackson and Andy Garcia (who plays Judd's partner) simply seem to have fancied a few months in San Francisco. Jackson himself says it best, his character coaching Judd on how to answer the inevitable charges that she's involved in the murders. "Keep it simple," he suggests. "Don't get fancy. Don't get creative." Talk about taking your own advice.

Unsuspenseful did-she-or-didn't-she? thriller from a director capable of far better. Not so much a whodunnit? as a whothehellcares?

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