Adapted from Richard Neeley's aptly titled, noirish novel The Plastic Nightmare, SHATTERED is a sleek but totally far-fetched American debut from German director Wolfgang Petersen which severely strains audience belief from the very beginning.
Dan Merrick (Tom Berenger), a San Francisco real estate magnate, is horribly injured in a car accident, from which his beautiful wife Judith (Greta Scacchi) has emerged surprisingly unscathed. Dan awakens from a coma to find that his disfigured face has been reconstructed from photographs, but he
remains a total amnesiac, plagued by nightmares. After Dan discovers photographs of his wife making love to another man, his business partner Jeb (Corbin Bernsen) and Jeb's dissatisfied wife Jenny (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer), who makes a play for Dan, inform him that before the accident his marriage
was on the rocks and Judith was having an affair with a man named Jack Stanton. Suspicious, Dan reestablishes contact with Gus Klein (Bob Hoskins), an eccentric detective with an office in a raucous pet shop whom he had hired before the accident to investigate Judith.
Eventually, Klein and Dan discover that Judith and her lover Stanton had planned the accident after murdering the real Dan and that this Dan is, in fact, Stanton, his true identity masked by the post-accident plastic surgery. Mirroring the opening, the finale has Judith, driving away with the
dazed Dan/Stanton (who with Klein has just found, in effect, his own corpse) and pursued by a police helicopter, accidentally plunging over a cliff to her death, with the latter safely thrown free from the car.
Unlike the work of Alfred Hitchcock, whom Petersen clearly seeks to emulate in SHATTERED, his characters are all fairly unsavory, defeating crucial audience identification with Berenger's Dan/Stanton, the putative protagonist. Petersen's overly contrived screenplay is structured so that the
audience knows only what Berenger does, or finds out, throughout. Using a theme usually associated with the horror genre, Petersen has stated that he tried for "something that went beyond suspense, something that went deeper, that would touch people's fear of nightmares." The performances are
sturdy, if enslaved to the preposterous storyline, especially the personable Hoskins. Petersen's direction, if never quite canny enough to survive audience disbelief, is crisp and efficient, as are the visuals by legendary cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs. (Violence, profanity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: R
- Review: Adapted from Richard Neeley's aptly titled, noirish novel The Plastic Nightmare, SHATTERED is a sleek but totally far-fetched American debut from German director Wolfgang Petersen which severely strains audience belief from the very beginning. Dan Merric… (more)