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Officer Jessica Shepard picks up men in bars as frequently and casually as most women swing by Starbucks for a double latte. Perhaps her promiscuity is a consequence of a tragic childhood, during which her father reportedly went on a killing spree before murdering her mother and turning the gun on himself. (Shepard has spent the past 25 years being raised by her dad’s partner, police commissioner John Mills.)
Just as she makes the bust of her career, gets promoted to homicide detective and begins working with a new partner, Jessica’s life gets twisted. Every night she goes home, drinks a few glasses of wine, passes out and awakens the next morning to learn that one of her many one-night stands has been brutally beaten to death.
Is Jessica’s subconscious leading her to commit these bloody crimes in black-widow fashion? And if she isn't, who is singling these men out? Could it be her amorous new partner, Mike Delmarco, eager to eliminate the competition? Is it her spurned, jealous ex-boyfriend, Jimmy? Or Mills, playing the role of protective father figure? What about Dr. Frank, the police-appointed psychiatrist who has been delving into the dark recesses of Jessica’s mind? Her old partner, Wilson? Becker, the chauvinistic co-worker who antagonizes her at every turn? What about Lisa, the mild-mannered forensics expert? Her self-defense instructor? The guy who reads her gas meter? The beautician who keeps the length of her hair changing from one scene to the next? Let’s face it, in this cliché-riddled potboiler, everyone is a suspect.
Officers come to one another’s aid and argue that complete honesty is essential to that professional relationship. When Jessica’s tie to several victims lands her in jail, she (unaware if she’s guilty or innocent) concludes that she’s probably better off there because people could be safer.
Scenes show Jessica intimately involved with various men, ranging from old boyfriends to those she just picked up at a bar. Quick cuts limit nudity, but don't obscure foreplay and intercourse (once in public). She and a partner undress each other. A criminal paws Jessica’s clothed breast and reaches into her pants before she unleashes a violent counter-attack. There’s a tasteless comment about necrophilia. Mills tells Jessica that her mother was murdered because she was cheating on her dad with a series of “hippies.” Jimmy makes unwanted advances toward Jessica, forcing her to beat him off of her. Mike and Jessica kiss. Music in a bar refers to someone as a “sex machine.”
There are disturbing crime scene photos. A cop refers to someone dismembering his victims in an attempt to get rid of evidence. Jessica beats up assailants with punches, fierce kicks and blows to the head. She bloodies Jimmy’s nose. An attacker draws blood when he holds a knife to her throat. She has a dream in which she fires her pistol into several men. In the final scene, she shoots the killer dead. Although the murders of her boyfriends aren’t actually shown, the graphic residue of those crimes is hideous. One bloodied corpse has crabs crawling on it. Another is found floating in the harbor. Jessica discovers one dead man propped up in a hot tub, his face beaten to a pulp. Later she wakes up beside another brutally disfigured victim. One character maliciously burns the hand of another with a lit cigarette.
Crude or Profane Language
Nearly 60 profanities or obscenities in all. They include 25 f-words, close to a half-dozen s-words and 10 exclamatory uses of the Lord’s name.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Alcohol appears throughout. Beer. Shots. Wine. One officer gets tipsy. In addition to her considerable social drinking, Jessica habitually unwinds alone with a glass or two of wine (it helps her “deal with her feelings”). And even though she experiences the nightly ritual of blacking out and waking up to find her old lovers dead—unsure of her own guilt—she continues to sip cabernet every evening, which keeps the bodies piling up. All she can tell authorities about one of her deceased bedmates is that his name is Bob and he liked gin. Characters are doped up with Rohypnol (the date-rape drug known as “roofies”). Since the calling card of the killer is a cigarette burn on the victim’s hand, most of the main characters are shown smoking in order to make them viable suspects.
Other Negative Elements
Twisted is one of those murder mysteries where any viewer vaguely familiar with the genre will finger the killer in the first 10 minutes. Consequently, the filmmakers must spend the balance of the movie trying to get us to doubt our early decision by trotting out more red herrings than a Bay area fish market. Indeed, the final hour and a half is dedicated to building a body count and generating doubt about the innocence of everyone onscreen. It could be anyone, so there’s no point in investing in the process. Don’t be surprised if the DVD includes several equally unsatisfying alternate endings.
That’s one reason Twisted doesn’t work. Another is Ashley Judd’s heroine, whose engine seems to run solely on sex and alcohol. Jessica’s habitual lack of self-control, self-respect and common sense makes it impossible to identify with her. She’s a moral mess. That’s compounded by the fact that the film uses her promiscuity as an excuse to jump between lewd flashbacks of casual sex and shots of her lovers’ bloody, disfigured faces. Twisted is a sleazy tease with plot holes, plausibility problems and a tired payoff that leaves the audience feeling as if they’d been beaten about the head.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Ashley Judd as Jessica Shepard; Samuel L. Jackson as John Mills; Andy Garcia as Mike Delmarco; David Strathairn as Dr. Melvin Frank; Russell Wong as Lt. Tong; Mark Pellegrino as Jimmy Schmidt; Camryn Manheim as Lisa
Philip Kaufman ( )