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Friday, April 13, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Perfect Stranger" | Halle Berry's beauty can take this only so far

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 1.5 stars


Showtimes

"Perfect Stranger," with Halle Berry, Bruce Willis, Giovanni Ribisi, Gary Dourdan, Richard Portnow, Patti D'Arbanville, Clea Lewis. Directed by James Foley, from a screenplay by Todd Komarnicki. 110 minutes. Rated R for sexual content, nudity, some disturbing violent images and language. Several theaters.

"Perfect Stranger," James Foley's sleek but empty thriller, is supposedly about a reporter trying to uncover the truth about a friend's murder, but really it's about Halle Berry's breathtaking gorgeousness.

As the reporter, she slinks through the movie in skintight clothing (does the woman ever breathe?), lounges about in her ridiculously commodious Manhattan apartment (does she have some lucrative second career that we never hear about?) and stares wide-eyed at her computer screen while reading messages aloud. All the while, the camera caresses her, bathing her in flattering lighting and letting us watch lingeringly while she rummages through her lingerie drawer; a cache of silk and lace that serves no purpose whatsoever to the plot, except perhaps to prove that this isn't "Basic Instinct." But it is, sort of: all gloss and steam, no substance.

Scripted by Todd Komarnicki, "Perfect Stranger" and its pretty pictures tick along predictably until things go insane in the last act. (Reportedly, several endings were filmed; perhaps some of them make more sense than this one.) Rowena Price (Berry), the world's most glamorous investigative reporter, meets up with an old friend on the street one night. They have a brief, fraught-with-meaning conversation, until the friend spits out "Actions have consequences, Ro."

Shortly afterwards, Old Friend turns up dead — as people in movies often do after a line like that — and Rowena turns her attention to the wealthy, married advertising executive (Bruce Willis; smirking, as well he might) with whom OF was having an affair. She gets a job as a temp at his office and assumes another identity as his online love interest. All the while, her pale-as-milk co-worker Miles (Giovanni Ribisi), who lives in a hideous pea-green rathole of an apartment, stares longingly at Rowena, perhaps wondering why she seems to make so much more money than he does.

Berry, who's capable of far better than this (see "Monster's Ball" if you need reminding), floats somewhere high above the pulpy plot, with a performance that's competent but remote. She keeps her dignity among some of the cringe-inducing elements, such as a repellent flashback subplot involving Ro's childhood. And, of course, she looks fabulous. But you knew that already.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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