Shattered Image (1998) / Thriller-Drama

MPAA Rated: R for violence, sexuality, nudity and some language
Running Time: 102 min.

Cast: Anne Parillaud, William Baldwin, Lisanne Falk, Graham Greene
Director:
Raul Ruiz
Screenplay: Duane Poole
Review published March 1, 2003

There are some movies which are crafted in such a way that things don't often make perfect sense the first time you watch it, but as you watch it again, the pieces of the puzzle come together until you have a good working notion of what's going on.  I'm only going to review this film based on my first time through because, quite frankly, it didn't intrigue me enough to merit a second viewing. 

The main reason for my decision is that with filmmaking this haphazard, I don't trust the makers enough to have given us all of the pieces of the puzzle, and I certainly don't want to put anymore time and effort into unraveling a film where there isn't guaranteed fruit for all of my mental labor in sorting it all out. 

Let's put it another way: screenwriter Duane Poole's other efforts include inane robot dog comedy, C.H.O.M.P.S., and penning juvenile fare like "Electra Woman and Dynagirl", "Scooby and Scrappy Doo", and the television show, "The Fall Guy".  Is this really the kind of writer I should trust to have the intelligence and mastery of his craft to merit fine-toothed analysis?  I say nay.

The story is divided among two stories with the same actors.  In one of them, Parillaud is a cold-hearted hit-woman (an obvious reference to Parillaud's most popular role in La Femme Nikita) who kills men without mercy.  In another, she is a newlywed bride, suicidal and recovering from a traumatic rape.  In both stories, Parillaud is aware of the other narrative because it takes place in her dreams.  The question to try to figure out:  is she dreaming, schizophrenic, or is one the past to another, and maybe, is she in a parallel universe?

Actually, the question I was trying to figure out through most of Shattered Image is whether I was watching a movie, or was it all a bad dream of my own.  The premise is certainly intriguing, with Hitchcockian themes, a De Palma delivery, and a good dose of titillating sex in the mix.  What the film lacks is genuine suspense, because for all of its twists and turns, the set-up never reels us in effectively enough to bother paying attention when things become odd, and all interest is jettisoned in time for the epilogue where all is supposed to be explained.  However, the explanation, if there really is one, only serves to confuse the issue more, leaving most viewers to scratch their heads and throw up their hands in frustration.

The only real asset to the entire production is Anne Parillaud herself, as she is the only actor worthy of making such an ambitious thriller around.  William Baldwin (Flatliners), while a decent looking fellow for the ladies to drool over, is just not her equal in the class department, mismatched to the point where there is almost a negative chemistry among them, because we never really buy that these two very different people would ever be together.  It also doesn't help that the supporting cast of Greene and Falk (who co-produced) are not very good in their respective roles as detective and seductress. 

Without cohesion in the casting, a Chilean director working in the English language in Ruiz (Time Regained, Klimt), and and the aforementioned shoddy scripting from Poole, watching Shattered Image is like being told a riddle by a drunk, crazy, stupid guy, who frequently stumbles on the delivery.  Save yourself some time and a whopper of a headache and rent Donnie Darko or Solaris if you are in dire need of a quality head-trip.

Qwipster's rating:

2003 Vince Leo