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Perfect Strangers (December 19/04)

Perfect Strangers takes a reasonably involving premise and squanders it by including some of the most baffling plot developments to come around in a good long while. Not even the presence of Sam Neill can save this one, though he does admittedly give an expectedly charismatic performance.

Melanie (Rachael Blake) is a bored single woman who meets up with a mysterious man (played by Neill) one night, and offers to go back to his place. As it turns out, his place is actually a houseboat and the two have an innocuous evening of storytelling and heavy drinking. But when Melanie wakes up the next morning, she discovers that her companion has set sail for an unknown destination. It soon becomes obvious that Melanie is being kidnapped, though it's not long before she's able to turn the tables on her captor.

Writer/director Gaylene Preston clearly has a certain amount of talent, primarily in terms of imbuing the film with a distinctive and intriguing sense of style. And while the two central character seem to hold some promise, it's not long before their behavior just becomes too bizarre to accept - something that's particularly true of Melanie. Melanie's reaction to being abducted by this stranger doesn't ring true in the slightest, as she eventually comes to feel sorry for this guy (and, consequently, quickly abandons her escape efforts). While there's no denying that this does happen in real life, the fact that Melanie's only known the man for a few hours makes it impossible to buy this plot development.

But there's more. Without delving too far into spoiler territory, Melanie manages to get the upper hand on Neill's character - and promptly goes insane. This is despite the fact that we've seen no evidence that Melanie is at all mentally unbalanced; it's a twist that seems to exist solely for the purpose of giving the character something to do. Though Blake is admittedly quite good in the role, she's just not able to make any of this feel believable.

Perfect Strangers is one of those infuriating movies that forces the viewer to roll their eyes every couple of minutes, thinking that no normal person would ever behave in such a manner. And though it's well shot and Neill is just as engaging as ever, the film is never able to rise above its exceedingly silly premise.

out of

About the DVD: First Look Home Entertainment presents Perfect Strangers with a letterboxed transfer, along with two trailers (one for the feature and one for The Gunman).
© David Nusair