Starring: Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, Powers Boothe & Matt O'Leary
VHB 5366
Certificate: 15
Available now

A man walks into the FBI building and tells Agent Doyle that his brother is the God's Hand killer. He tells the backstory which begins with his childhood. He and his brother live alone with their father. Everything is normal until dad tells them he has been visited by an angel. Apparently, the final battle between angels and demons has begun. The demons are already here in human form, and it is the family's task to destroy them. When the angel revisits, relaying a list of names, the killing begins...

When I watched the opening shot of Agent Doyle exiting his car wearing a stereotypical mean expression, and walking through a night storm to the FBI building, I couldn't help sighing. This was going to be another one of the multitude of tired cops and robbers films that Americans insist on doing so badly. Matters didn't immediately improve when I realised a small part of the early plot was similar to a short story I had written some years ago. Thieves! Plagiarists! Where's my money?

Ahem, where was I? Oh, yes, being dreadfully wrong. Frailty (The God's Hand Killer would have been a good title) quickly lifts itself from the mire and into the elite stream. As time passes it's becoming increasingly difficult for the horror genre to reinvent itself. This film leans more towards thriller, but there's a hint of a supernatural element hanging over the events.

The entire package is extremely effective, even though one of the twists at the conclusion is blatantly predictable. The script doesn't need to be totally original, because it's so well told. However, it's the strong central characters and the actors' corresponding performances that make the tale so convincing. Bill Paxton, making his directorial debut here, plays the angel-visited dad. The two boys, who play Adam and Fenton, are even better, both displaying genuine reactions. Their expressions alone draw you into the emotional mix. One sees his dad as a murderer and longs to run away, but he won't leave his brother behind; and his brother trusts dad, having no problem (only a strange fascination) with what is going on.

Every once in a while it's nice to be pleasantly surprised, and that's precisely what happened here.

Ty Power