Watching the detectives

Perfect Stranger

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click to enlarge WHO DO YOU TRUST? Halle Berry plays an undercover reporter trying to get the goods on Bruce Willis in Perfect Stranger. - Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures
WHO DO YOU TRUST? Halle Berry plays an undercover reporter trying to get the goods on Bruce Willis in Perfect Stranger.

Despite the perfectly generic title and perfectly bankable A-List stars (Halle Berry flirting with Bruce Willis!), Perfect Stranger turns out to be far from perfect and not at all strange. James Foley, who has directed some pretty good films in his time, cooks up a slick but basically pointless thriller that never quite kicks into gear, although it does have some interesting qualities.

For the most part, Perfect Stranger is business as usual, that business chiefly being the methodical manufacture of red herrings intended to distract us from how little is really going on here. The movie is pretty much all foreplay, promising puzzles within puzzles without ever really providing one worth pondering.

The film's characters simply scurry about saying and doing thoroughly illogical things in order to move the plot in the required direction. Berry stars as Rowena Price, a foxy newspaper reporter who goes undercover at a top advertising agency run by a philandering executive (Willis) who may have murdered Berry's friend. The stars are fun to watch — Willis plays a slightly more ominous version of his standard scalawag, and Berry's cartoon crusader may be her best since Catwoman (take that with as many kernels of popcorn as you wish) — but the script is lazy to a fault, with cheesy flashbacks surfacing every so often in lieu of actual character development.

The movie is sure to be promoted as a "psychological thriller," but there's precious little psychology to be had, and only a sprinkling of thrills. And after all the film's arbitrary detours, it's hard to particularly care, much less remember anything beyond Willis' smirk and that sexy little dress clinging to Berry somewhere within the smoke and mirrors.

Perfect Stranger (R) Directed by James Foley. Stars Halle Berry, Bruce Willis, Giovanni Ribisi, Gary Dourdan and Patti D'Arbanville. Opens April 13 at local theaters. 2 stars

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