Shattered (1991) / Mystery-Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for nudity, sexuality, violence, and language
Running time: 98 min.


Cast: Tom Berenger, Greta Scacchi, Bob Hoskins, Corbin Bernsen, Joanne Whalley, Debi A. Monahan, Bert Rosario, Jedda Jones, Scott Getlin
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Screenplay: Wolfgang Petersen (based on the novel by Richard Neely)

Review published September 1, 2007

Tom Berenger (Major League, Butch & Sundance) plays a rich San Francisco businessman named Tom Merrick, recently involved in a terrible car accident that sees him need major face and body reconstruction in order to look normal again.  He also has a nasty case of amnesia.  His wife Judith (Scacchi, Presumed Innocent), who was thrown from the car during the fall, is able to nurse him back to health again, but he doesn't like what he finds when he returns back to his former life.  Basically, he is a jerk having his own affair and conducting business that deals only for profit, regardless of the circumstances to the environment.  He also may have been involved with the disappearance of Judith's lover (Getlin, No Small Affair).  In order to find out more about his past, Tom hires a part-time private investigator (Hoskins, Heart Condition), apparently one he's worked with before, in order to dig up anything he can find on his past life -- even if it kills him.

Shattered isn't so much a movie as it is a plot twist waiting to happen.  From the outset, you know that there's a mystery to be solved, but you aren't quite clued in as to its nature.  With amnesia as a plot device and supporting characters who all seem like they have something to hide, the rest of the time you spend with the film is in trying to figure out who is telling the truth, who is lying, and what is the correlation between the car accident and Jack Stanton's disappearance. 

As far as these sorts of plot twists go, it's an interesting one, if very implausible.  Revealing its nature would constitute a spoiler, which in a film that sets everything up for the final revelations, is a fairly big no-no.  As with most films like this, how much you enjoy Shattered as a whole will greatly depend on how surprised you are at the end, as there really isn't much in the way of characterizations or story to get into otherwise.  This is the sort of film that one could easily assume someone like Hitchcock would love to make, although it's a certainty that he would have beefed up the characters and their backgrounds more, and stripped away most of the plotting that constantly reminds us that there are underlying factors in play at all times.  The best part of being surprised is not knowing there is a surprise coming, and Petersen's (The NeverEnding Story, Air Force One) treatment is constantly reminding us there is a mystery to be solved here.

Shattered was one of several films to follow in the Hitchcockian-delivered (with a noirish femme fatale) mode of films in the early 1990s, and while it's nothing worth going out of one's way for from a general film-lover's standpoint, if you like steamy thrillers, it certainly will keep your interest.  It's a bit on the talky side, but not burdensome.  What it really lacks that would make it more palatable would be a sense of humor about itself, much like Paul Verhoeven was able to do with Basic Instinct the following year, which would set the table for the rather silly plot twists that pile on top of each other until you can only scratch your head at how such a farfetched scheme could actually work.  It's a standard b-movie plot with a better cast and budget (though not quite A-list), making it decent within its own genre, but a waste of time for those not looking for a sexy mystery-thriller.

Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo