There was a time, not so terribly long ago, when crime thrillers were actually thrilling.

Films, such as Basic Instinct, were gripping from start to finish. They combined believable actors with realistic plots and skillful directing. The best crime dramas never went over-the-top with creativity behind the camera. Instead, they used just the right eye, just the right angle, just the right timing to capture a suspicious glance, a subtle gesture, a piece of the puzzle to be put together later in the story line.

Then there was the music. Sound design takes a special talent not shared by many filmmakers. The best use of music never forced itself into a scene, announcing, “Hey audience, this is the bad guy! Listen to the creepy noises as he walks in!”

It seems, however, that the art of nuance in crime flicks has been all but lost. This is disappointing, particularly in light of all the latest real-life, high-profile examples of lawbreaking and police investigation worldwide. A wise screenwriter or director might consider looking to the daily paper or 11 o’clock news for both artistic inspiration and insight into the criminal mind.

It’s too late for Philip Kaufman, the director, and Sarah Thorp, the writer, of Twisted, starring Ashley Judd, Andy Garcia and Samuel L. Jackson. After doing a reasonable job of building suspense, the story collapses into a heap at the end when a killer is revealed.

Judd portrays Jessica Shepard, a cop who faces wondering eyes from her colleagues when men she’s picked up for one-night stands keep turning up dead. She’s a serious drinker, having already developed her share of unresolved personal issues, stemming from the deaths of her parents, namely a dad who served on the same police force.

Shepard’s relationship with her police partner (Garcia), who can’t contain his attraction to her, along with her interaction with a mentor (Jackson), who worked with her dad, make for an interesting backdrop. Yet, inexplicably, just as Shepard is about to be attacked by one of her few still-breathing past lovers, the story shifts. Suddenly, with help, Shepard is hot on the killer’s trail, and when she finally finds him, there’s no believable rhyme or reason as to why he left this bloody trail.

The murderer has the means, but no motive or opportunity that makes good sense. Twisted sacrifices careful, crime-solving logic for a cheap plot twist, which apparently inspires the film’s title. As a result, it ends with a tired sigh, instead of a satisfied sense that the good guys really win.

E-mail Eddie B. Allen Jr. at [email protected].

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