I was previously unaware that actor Bill Paxton had also been a director briefly, but upon discovering this fact, I was curious to know what the Aliens actor had done with his feature debut, Frailty. In short, it’s a quiet gem that walks the line between police procedural and family drama with ease. It’s entertaining, to be sure, but it also has some deep and disturbing questions worth considering before living in an isolated farmhouse.
The story begins with Adam Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) walking into a quiet FBI office. Agent Doyle (Powers Boothe) has been stuck on a case involving multiple homicides for years, and Adam simply says he knows who the current killer is and who the original killer was. From there, the story looks at Adam’s childhood with his brother, Fenton (Levi Kreis), and Dad Meiks (Bill Paxton). The only piece of the many puzzles pieces revealed at this moment of the story is that he’s related to these two. Paxton plays the role of a single father with conviction and doesn’t go over the top with his acting when an angel appears and tells him that he must begin killing demons that have taken human form.
Sadly, for us, we know that these ‘demons’ are actual people that Dad Meiks kidnaps, tries, and ends up killing with a large ax, eventually dragging his two sons into his mission. As a child of the 90s that grew up on shows like “Supernatural,” I wonder if Eric Kripke ever watched this film. In that show, two brothers follow in their father’s footsteps to fight evil. Certainly, the Winchesters mission to kill demons and monsters is easier to swallow. Here, Meiks’ victims appear to just be people that don’t live up to his religious standards. It also gives off vibes of early episodes of “Criminal Minds” where agents profile serial killers and track them down based on their motives and manner of killing but the film doesn’t answer every question or give every explanation. It teases us with the possibility that Meiks is driven by God as mysterious things happen and he grows increasingly lucky. But one thing is certain; the murders are weighing on his sons.
This is where the film really shine. The performances are top-notch and Paxton focuses on this more than the violence and blood. One son wants to imitate his father while the other has reservations. It’s a cruel environment they find themselves trapped in. The editing is smart, cutting away just as the ax cuts people down most of the time, not to be cheap necessarily, but to show that this is a different kind of thriller. The violence isn’t the point. The mystery and emotions cut deep even as we watch a father dissolve into insanity. Whether you believe in demons or not, I find it far more likely that the single parent had a mental decline and deep-seated bitterness that led him to do the unspeakable. But if that’s true, then how does he know so much about his victims?
Such questions may have simple explanations but Paxton only gives us what is necessary. For someone that grew up watching shows revolving around these subject matters, it’s nice to watch another one that’s able to distinguish itself. No doubt, I’ll discover more upon a second viewing but the first one is worthy of a very high score.
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