Investigative journalist Rowena Price (Halle Berry) thinks she has the story which will make her career: a senator who preaches family values and anti-homosexual rhetoric is actually a closeted gay who has been having an affair with one of his interns. This is going to be a sensation - but it won't published now as she gets the word that pressure has been applied to the intern and he has withdrawn his evidence, leaving Rowena on two week enforced leave and very angry indeed. As if that were not bad enough, an old friend, Grace (Nicki Aycox), keeps turning up like a bad penny - but this time will be the last...
Perfect Stranger quickly gained notoriety as one of the worst thrillers of its year, and if there were a few happy to go along with its demented approach to red herrings, many more were of the opinion that Halle Berry had blundered again, once more finding it difficult to find a decent vehicle for her Oscar-winning talents. But at least lovers of camp were following her career and laughing it up as each fresh turkey was served up for their delectation, and with this little item they were blessed with a feast of preposterous twists and lame attempts to update the classic thriller structure for the twenty-first century.
Mainly it did so by having the characters spend most of their time on the internet; filmmakers had found to their cost back in the nineties that bringing that type of technology into their movies wasn't half as interesting as surfing the net yourself, and leaving audiences eager to pick holes in the shaky representation of something they did every day. Rowena has an ally in her reporting, and he is Miles (Giovanni Ribisi), a computer genius who can hack away at anything she asks him to - but did he hack way literally at Grace, who has been found dead the night Rowena last saw her? After all, being played by that particular actor there's no way he could be anything but a twitching misfit.
But if you thought that, you reckoned without the writers offering up practically everyone with a speaking role as a possible suspect in what begins to look as if it were scripted while in dire need of medication to combat raging paranoia. Rowena believes she has a great new lead, which is that advertising agency boss Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis) might have killed Grace, so she has to infiltrate his business posing as a secretary to expose him. What does this have to do with the internet? Ah, Harrison likes chatrooms to find women to pick up without his wife knowing (the wife is also a suspect), which leads to boring sequences of typing in lieu of a car chase or something more exciting.
Reportedly those writers were still trying to make up their minds on what to do with their story up to the last minute, and it really shows, especially in the final revelation which not only insults the audience's intelligence but appears as if Halle has wound up struggling through some straight to DVD gunge with nothing to lose - as in you've rented the disc, so they have your money and can do whatever random business they like, sucker - rather than a more prestigious effort she might have preferred to star in. Not only that, but as Harrison works in commercials, there's a heap of product placement to wade through, not cleverly integrated as in your average episode of Mad Men, but dumped onto the screen like so much thoughtless fly tipping, as if regularly distracted away from the increasingly haywire plot to say, oh, incidentally, we have people to pay so buy these brands. Add in a Halle shrine straight out of that stalker episode of I'm Alan Partridge, and a final shot sure to make you groan, and Perfect Stranger was a disaster. Music by Antonio Pinto.