Saturday, December 6, 2008

REVIEW OF ''SHATTERED'' aka "Butterfly on a Wheel" (2007)

Some movies are easy to criticize in a review, pointing out the positive and the negative while applauding or panning those involved. Other movies, like the Pierce Brosnan & Gerald Butler melodrama “Shattered” (**** out of ****) [a.k.a. “Butterfly on a Wheel”] pose difficulties because you cannot plunge into details without divulging crucial plot points that would ruin the film's mystery and suspense for folks who want to see it. I thoroughly enjoyed “Shattered,” but my closest and dearest friends absolutely detested it from start to finish. Evidently, the film did not fare well at the box office because it didn’t play in the sticks where I live, Columbus, Mississippi, and it didn’t last long in theaters. Since I don't subscribe to the crappy cable where I lived, little did I know that it premiered on TNT. I envy those audiences that did see it in theaters. Again, I had a blast watching this tense, white-knuckled suspense thriller.

The first time that I saw Mike Barker's "Shattered," I watched it with the commentary track playing because I had bought it used at a Movie Gallery sale and I wanted to have some idea about what was happening in case the DVD skipped and I had to wait any length of time before I could replace it. I’ve never had a problem watching a movie that I learn stuff about as I am watching it. In fact, the second time that I watched "Shattered," I appreciated it the way some people savor good food. Now, the married couple that saw "Shattered" took an immediate dislike to it and the surprise ending didn't leaving them gasping, and they generally didn’t like anything about it, especially Maria Bello.

Pierce Brosnan, the former James Bond on the big-screen and Remington Steele on the small screen, has been monkeying around with his cinematic persona since the Bond producers sent him packing after "Die Another Day." He let his belly hang out in “After the Sunset,” admittedly a routine caper film, and most recently, he sang in “Mama Mia.” Between these epics, Brosnan played the villain in “Shattered” and he is convincing without going overboard as a psychotic lunatic.

An unshaven renegade with a grudge, Tom Ryan (Pierce Brosnan) forces his way into the lives of successful Chicago advertising executive Neil Randal (Gerald Butler of “300”) and his pretty blond wife Abby (Maria Bello of “Payback”) as Neil is taking Abby off to a girls’ night out rendezvous before he leaves on a jet for a trip with his boss. No sooner have our happily married couple hit the road than Tom pops up out of the backseat and holds them at gunpoint. Not surprisingly, Neil and Abby react with shock and their shock intensifies when Tom explains that the babysitter is part of his grand kidnapping scheme. Tom assures the Randalls that with his cell phone he can order his accomplice to kill their adorable little girl Sophie if they refuse to follow his orders.

Now, if you’re the kind of person that likes to pick holes in plots before the film has even reached its climax, you will HATE “Shattered.” My friends were bombarding me with questions and trying to guess the outcome. The wife had figured part of it out, but there was a red herring that threw them off the scent for a while. Anyway, Tom has been watching Neil so we know that he knows something and the something that Tom knows is the exact amount of Neil’s bank account, over $142-thousand dollars. At this point, we know that Neil is an egotistical sort of guy and that he has a knack for landing big accounts at his advertising agency. The Randalls have a luxurious house in the Chicago suburbs and Abby is a photographer. She appears to be happy with her husband because the sky seems to be the limit for Neil. Neil has a lot of tenacity and he isn’t afraid to admit it. He is a tiger at what he does, until he runs into Tom. At the bank, Neil and Abby withdraw everything and hand it over in an attaché case to Tom. Tom wastes no time. He pulls out a sheaf of bills and sets fire to it and then he drops the burning currency into the attaché case and tosses it lock, stock, and barrel off a bridge in Chicago.

Indeed, “Shattered” is for all practical purposes a kidnap thriller and initially I was intrigued but grew impatient with it. However, the more that I watched it, the more entertaining it became. Nobody gave a bad performance and I loved the surprise ending. Unfortunately, I don’t want to say anything else, except I feel that “Shattered” qualifies as an excellent, edge-of-your seat movie and happily most of the people who wrote about it at Amazon shared my sentiments. The filmmakers took the original title "Butterfly on a Wheel" from an Alexander Pope poem that basically translates as smashing a butterfly with a hammer with a fly swatter would serve the same purpose. Once you see the film, you'll understand the title. I love watching Maria Bello in any film and I wish that her career were more prestigious than it is because she is a talented lady. Altogether, my review doesn’t do justice to this spine-tingling, nail-biter that ripples with one surprise after another surprise.

“Shattered” is in the same league with the fantastic David Fincher thriller “The Game with Michael Douglas and Mikael Håfström’s “Derailed” with Clive Owen. Although "Shattered" carries an R-rating, there is no nudity, little bloodshed, but several tense moments and Ashley Rowe's scintillating widescreen photography at times may induce vertigo.