Frailty


Directed by: Bill Paxton
Written by:Brent Hanley
Starring: Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, Powers Boothe, Matthew O’Leary, Jeremy Sumpter
Released: January 30, 2003
Grade: B+

Fenton Meiks (McConaughey) is sitting and waiting for Agent Wesley Doyle (Boothe).  The two have never met but Adam has some important information to share - he knows who’s responsible for a recent spate of local killings.  It’s Fenton’s own brother, Adam.  Exactly why is Fenton dobbing in his own brother?  Well it’s a long story and he’s about to explain it all to Agent Doyle.

Not yet a teenager, Fenton (O’Leary), his younger brother Adam (Sumpter), and their father (Paxton) lived a standard existence.  Until one morning, the dad awoke with a compelling story to tell.  He had been visited by an angel sent by God.  The angel told him that he had been chosen to destroy “demons” and would soon be given a list of names of people, posing as demons, who needed to be killed.

The influential Adam had no qualms believing his father’s tale but the wiser Fenton did not believe a word.  He feared his father was losing his mind and hoped this fantasy would quickly dissipate.  Not so.  Dad suddenly had a list of seven names and Fenton was soon witness to bloody slayings in their back shed and being forced to dig graves to hide the bodies.

The horror didn’t end.  Fenton was told not to tell anyone or something terrible would happen to the family.  He considered running away but couldn’t leave his brother behind.  He was trapped and his dad was tiring of his reluctance to believe in God’s wishes.  Something had to happen... and it did.  If you put the pieces together, you’ll think you know how this reflection relates to the current situation with Agent Doyle.  But you’d be wrong...

I hadn’t heard of the film prior to last week but Bill Paxton, in his directorial debut, has a dynamite screenplay to work from.  It’s very disturbing and the religious undertone increases the unsettling tension.  Paxton doesn’t shy away from the film’s troubling moments - the killing scenes are particularly gruesome and there’s some upsetting moments that the young Fenton is forced to endure.  His style certainly kept my attention and credit to Paxton, although I’ll admit the direction was a bit rough around the edges.

Paxton also delivers a strong performance.  Matthew McConaughey shares top billing but has a minor role compared with the other cast members.  This was 15-year-old Matthew O’Leary’s first film (as noted in the credits) despite it being the third film I’ve seen him in.  How so?  Well the film is two years old and in the time since, O’Leary’s exposure has seen him feature in Domestic Disturbance and Spy Kids 2.

But the real star is the script and another newcomer, Brent Hanley receives credit for it.  I’m not convinced the rationale is there but it’s still absorbing.  Hanley already has a few other screenplays in the works and I’ll keep one eye open in anticipation of their release.  While we’re all waiting, the opportunity has arrived to see Frailty and with it, an agitatingly creepy thriller.  Believe at your own peril.