Movie Review: 'Perfect Stranger' Starring Halle Berry and Bruce Willis

'Perfect Stranger' is Far From Perfect

Bruce Willis and Halle Berry in Perfect Stranger. © Revolution Studios

Even the biggest fans of Halle Berry and her gorgeous looks are going to be hard-pressed to find much to enjoy about Perfect Stranger, a perfectly bland thriller co-starring Bruce Willis and the go-to guy for funky/creepy characters, Giovanni Ribisi. Loaded with close-ups of Berry’s lovely face caught in a deer in the headlights stare, an overabundance of boring shots of computer screens filled with sexually teasing text, and a batch of potential murder suspects we couldn’t care less about, Perfect Stranger is a pushy film that tries to accomplish way too much and doesn’t actually achieve anything.

Berry stars as Rowena Price, an investigative reporter who writes under an assumed male name for a big city newspaper. When her story on a United States Senator’s sexual habits is quashed by the powers that be she angrily quits her job. The timing couldn’t be more perfect as she immediately gets caught up in the investigation of the murder of a childhood friend (Nicki Aycox). Assisted by Miles (Ribisi), her right-hand man who still works at the newspaper and has access to all sorts of information, Rowena goes undercover to collect information on the individual they suspect is the killer: powerful advertising executive Harrison Hill (Willis).

Following the initial setup, a series of forgettable events involving people who aren't the least bit likeable fill the next hour. More importantly, we get treated to Rowena going through a closet full of designer clothes to wear to her temp job as a clerical assistant in Hill's office, which just happens to be loaded with women who look like Victoria’s Secrets models.

Speaking of Victoria’s Secrets, there’s a huge bit of advertising for the company also included in this snore-inducing middle section of the film.

Really, Rowena is nothing more than gorgeous window dressing. She poses, she preens, she uses all of her many assets to try and snare the man she believes killed her friend.

But the investigative work is actually being done by the man behind the curtain: Miles. He’s the brains behind the operation and if he’d been a female with a curvaceous body and a wardrobe to die for, there would be no need for a Rowena at all. I’m only bringing that up because the film teases us with the belief that it’s about a strong female reporter, but that’s far from reality.

Why Berry’s character attaches a masculine byline to her articles is never explained. Come on, it’s 2007 and there are a lot of respected female journalists working for major news organizations. That’s not the only dangling plotline, but it is one of the more annoying ones.

Oscar-winner Berry might be the star, but her ‘Rowena’ actually deserves no more than a supporting role in this story. Berry doesn’t do much with such a one-dimensional, cookie cutter part other than look spectacular. As for the rest of main players, well, Ribisi is Ribisi. He’s dependable as the freaky friend, bringing a little something edgy to the role of a victim of unrequited love. Willis at least appears to be having a good time with the part, though there’s not much for him to do other than pose in doorways and read aloud what he’s typing in an online chat with Berry.

Perfect Stranger takes its time meandering through a list of likely suspects before finishing with a climax that I’m sure is meant to catch the audience totally by surprise. Unfortunately for all involved - and especially for those who've invested cash and time in sitting through it in a theater - it doesn’t.

GRADE: D+

Perfect Stranger was directed by James Foley and is rated R for sexual content, nudity some disturbing violent images and language.

Edited by Christopher McKittrick