Still treading in the dark waters of her Oscar-winner "Monster's Ball" and the less notable "Gothika," actress Halle Berry enters the sometimes sinister world of investigative tabloid reporting with "Perfect Stranger."
When scoop-snooper Rowena Price (Berry) focuses her sights on adulterous advertising exec Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), the film provides potent and (literally) poisonous sexual tension, moving close to "Basic Instinct" land. Particularly powerful are sneaky e-mail scenes between Hill and Rowena in the guise of agency temp Katherine Pogue also posing online as his cyber-sex kitten Veronica. It's similar to inter-office computer suspense featured in the true-life spy thriller, "Breach," but more complicated and much more sexy. However, the road grows muddy and murky when subplots converge to convolute an effectively simple bait-and-trap story, where the high-powered immoral ad man may be a murderer. Berry's beauty and brains are the key elements tying us to the disintegrating story. Help does come from Giovanni Ribisi as Rowena's computer-whiz sidekick Miles Haley who is always funny, but often a bit too creepy.
Directed by James Foley ("Fear") from a Todd Komarnicki screenplay, "Perfect Stranger," is far from perfect, though it is strange. The message is that no one is who they appear to be and everyone has an ulterior motive. Throughout, we get some "Silence of the Lambs" Clarice-type flashbacks, revealing Rowena's childhood trauma. In fact, it's the bizarre death of childhood friend and sexpot Grace (Nicki Aycox) that sends the intrepid reporter on the fishing expedition to Hill's agency.
"Perfect Stranger" strength is in the charged Berry-Willis chemistry. When it turns too kinky for its own and our good, the movie degenerates into a bad commercial for Reebok or Victoria's Secret, the products of both being abundantly placed.
But, even for Berry fans, it would be best to wait for the DVD or go to her dark side with "Monster's Ball."