DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
SHATTERED (director/writer: Wolfgang Petersen; screenwriter: from the novel by Richard Neely "The Plastic Nightmare"; cinematographer: Laszlo Kovacs; editor: Hannes Nikel/Glenn Farr; music: Angelo Badalamenti; cast: Tom Berenger (Dan Merrick), Bob Hoskins (Gus Klein), Greta Scacchi (Judith Merrick), Joanne Whalley-Kilmer (Jenny Scott), Corbin Bernsen (Jeb Scott), Debi A. Monahan (Nancy Mercer), Scott Getlin (Jack Stanton), Theodore Bikel (Dr. Berkus), Bert Rosario (Rudy Costa); Runtime: 98; MGM; 1991)

 
"Purely escapist entertainment venture."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A clever and diverting plot-driven thriller that keeps the suspense going until the end, but it takes a suspension of disbelief on the viewer's part to stay with this one. This is the first American feature of German director Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot-1981). It is adapted from the novel by Richard Neely "The Plastic Nightmare."

The film opens with a car crash on New Year's Eve involving hubby and wife, Dan and Judith Merrick (Tom Berenger and Greta Scacchi), who were drunk after attending a party and were speeding on a curvy mountain road. He must get plastic surgery for his face after coming out of a coma. He also becomes an amnesia victim, remembering nothing about his past. She comes out of the accident without a scratch, as she fell out of the car before it went down the side of the cliff.

After his recovery Dan returns to his luxurious San Francisco home and resumes his wealthy architect lifestyle with partner Jeb Scott (Corbin Bernsen) in a successful property development firm. Dan also learns that he's having a torrid affair with Jeb's wife Jenny (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer), while his wife is having an affair with an architect named Jack Stanton (Scott Getlin). But Judith doesn't mention any of this to Dan, instead treats him with TLC, and generously dedicates herself to seeing that he gets well. The two also seem to be good in bed.

But Dan smells something fishy as he struggles like the audience does to make sense of what is happening, as he learns things about himself that make him feel creepy and disorientated. He first finds a roll of photos hidden in his room showing Judith and Stanton making love. And, he then learns that prior to the accident he hired an eccentric private detective Gus Klein (Bob Hoskins) to follow Judith and Stanton. When he visits with Klein in the pet shop he owns, he learns that Stanton is missing. So he rehires Klein to help him put the pieces of the puzzle to his life back together again. From the hotel manager (Rosario) of the Hacienda, he learns that both his wife and him have chosen to have their adulterous trysts there. He's also having nightmares of glass shattering and of an abandoned ship by the marina where his firm is building a new structure. On top of that Jeb tells him that all was not well in his marriage before the accident; while Jenny clearly says it wasn't an accident at all, but an attempt to murder him.

Under Petersen's shadowy and controlled direction, the film winds down with a bunch of implausible surprises that nevertheless resonate. The biggest surprise is reserved for Dan when he takes a look at the dead body discovered in the abandoned ship by the marina. The film thrives on its secrets to hold one's interest. "Shattered" is a purely escapist entertainment venture. But it is well-crafted and even though it's farfetched and the characters are cold and not quite explainable, the thriller remains gripping.

REVIEWED ON 4/6/2002     GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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