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by Jack Sommersby

"Hugely Enjoyable and Paced Like Gangbusters"
4 stars

Deserved to have done a lot more box-office business.

Brilliantly directed, photographed and edited, the sometimes-ingenious psychological thriller Shattered is whoppingly implausible to the nth degree, but it's also robustly entertaining stuff from start to finish, thanks in large part to the talented German filmmaker Wolfgang Petersen who not only helmed the proceedings but wrote the trickily-structured screenplay. Petersen first made an impression with the submarine-set Das Boot and followed that international hit up with the superb children's adventure The NeverEnding Story and the fine science-fiction tale Enemy Mine; he brings a real physicality and robustness to his productions that convince you of the seriousness of his intent - never for a second do you sense he's going through the motions; you get the impression he considers himself lucky to be working in his profession and feels it his utmost duty to give audiences as much bang for their buck as he possibly provide. Which especially comes in handy with Shattered in that his adaptation of a 1969 novel by Jeff Neely (unread by me) has a few built-in logic loopholes no technical virtuosity can quite cover, but that's okay because the picture is so atmospheric and suspenseful you're more than willing to give it a good deal of slack and surrender to its spellbinding hold. The movie opens on New Year's Eve night with a horrific car crash involving San Francisco architect Dan Merrick (Tom Berenger) and wife Judith (Greta Scacchi) as their Mercedes crashes off a steep cliff after attending a party, with Judith thrown clear near topside and barely injured but Dan considerably disfigured from the vehicle tumbling all the way to the bottom; not only needing extensive facial reconstruction, Dan is experiencing "psychogenic amnesia" which the doctor explains to Judith comprises of the patient being able to remember basic facts like the name of the president but practically nothing about his personal life. Dan returns to his posh home and kinda recalls it, and he insists going back to work the next day in the hope it'll jog some memories; he's partners with his best friend and ruthless businessman Jeb Scott (Corbin Bernsen), with their own floor in the Transamerica building. Jeb relays to him he was having martial problems problems before the crash and talking divorce a couple of times, and Jeb's astrology-obsessed wife Jenny (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer) reveals to him they were having an affair and is suspicious Judith escaped the crash with only minor injuries - was it really an accident or a staged one on the part of Judith to off her wealthy husband? (Little by little Dan's memory starts coming back, but the details are fuzzy, with Petersen giving us hypnotic flashbacks involving a gun being fired and a nighttime drive in the fog to a huge abandoned ship moored in the harbor.) Finding a reel of film in his study Dan discovers Judith was also having an affair and that he had employed the services of the eccentric private detective Gus Stein (Bob Hoskins), an ex-cop who also owns a downtown pet store and whose seven-thousand-dollar invoice was in fact paid off by Judith herself. Dan wants to hire Gus again to find out more about his wife's secret lover, and though Gus initially objects insisting Dan should just let the matter drop (let bygones be bygones) he himself is helplessly intrigued and finds out the lover, a Jack Stanton, who bears a physical resemblance to Dan, sent a fax from Dan's office five hours after the crash to Judith that he was departing the States to Japan, and that Judith was not in the hospital at this time (she checked herself out after just a couple of hours). I don't dare reveal anything more because genuine surprises are the mainstay of the appeal of Shattered with the final one all but guaranteed to throw you for an absolute loop. The movie is an appropriately brief ninety-seven minutes, and if there's a single bum scene I didn't spot it; and while the story strains credibility at times you're so helplessly enveloped in the spell Petersen has expertly cast you're not likely to object. Further helping matters are the three-dimensional characters Petersen has taken the artistic responsibility in providing us, with the always-welcome Hoskins again proving himself a stalwart of a thespian whose bountiful gifts are seemingly endless, and Berenger, who was badly miscast as the romantic hero in the comedy Major League two years prior, remains appealing throughout. All in all, Shattered is a knockout of a motion picture of the kind the maestro Alfred Hitchcock would've enthusiastically applauded with the biggest smile on his face in the world. It's great, undiluted fun.

The Blu-Ray sports a very good transfer.

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originally posted: 11/30/20 06:05:57
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  11-Oct-1991 (R)



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