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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

SHATTERED -- DVD Review by Porfle

Sometimes it's a chore to watch one of those Lifetime Channel-type dramas that gets a female protagonist into an untenable situation and then pulls out all the predictable stops to get her out of it.

Every once in a while, though, I find myself in the middle of one and stop and think: "Hmm...I'm enjoying this."  It's such a pleasant surprise that I'm compelled to regard the movie in a much more charitable light rather than wincing at every tired plot turn or turgid dialogue exchange.

In the case of SHATTERED (2017), the surprise doesn't stop there. In fact, it's full of surprises.  Just when things seem headed in the old familiar directions and we settle in to see them played out, the movie deftly sidesteps expectations and heads down an entirely different avenue.  Not just once, but several times--enough to keep us not just interested, but intrigued.

Molly Burnett (THE WEDDING PARTY, "Days of Our Lives") stars as Maureen, a smalltown single girl who meets, falls for, and marries Ken (Tom Malloy, HERO OF THE UNDERWORLD), the son of the town's wealthiest man.  They adopt a son named Logan, have a daughter named Emma, and start living the happy, carefree lives of the upper-class married.

But not is all as it seems.  Tom's father, Forest Burnett (the venerable Ray Wise, "Twin Peaks", THE AGGRESSION SCALE, HALLOWEED, CHILLERAMA), is an aspiring big fish/little pond politician whose fake smile masks a volatile demeanor as well as some deep, dark secrets.  His trophy wife Kate (Arianne Zucker) knows the secrets, but is trapped by fear and dependence. 

Maureen's trapped too but she just doesn't know it yet. Things start to go wrong when her adopted son Logan turns out to be a deeply troubled mental case who wields sharp instruments and mutters "Kill!"  Attempts to find out about his real parents and get professional help for him are blocked by the Burnetts, who fear the bad publicity. 

Or, in Forest's case, is there even more to it than that?  Of course there is, and thereby hinges the inevitable morass of marital and parental disaster that we're about to watch Maureen wade through like a leech-infested swamp for the next 90 minutes or so.

As I said, it all sounds so comfortingly yet tiresomely predictable, until something happens that comes right out of left field and changes everything. This messes with all our predictions to a degree that we're never quite sure what's going to come out of left field next. 

Not that any of it is particularly world-shaking, mind you.  The story progresses at a leisurely pace, with none of the dramatic intensity or thriller-type incidents usually found in these films (thus thwarting expectations yet again), and plays itself out with a sort of off-kilter calm. 

I was halfway through the big climactic scene before I realized it was the big climactic scene--that's how deceptively unsensational this story is.  It's just engaging enough to hold our attention and make us want to stick around to see how it all plays out. 

Direction by Natasha Kermani (IMITATION GIRL) is capable, with adequate-to-good performances.  Old pro Ray Wise comes off best, naturally, as does Arianne Zucker (once a co-star with Molly Burnett on "Days of Our Lives") as Forest's morally-conflicted wife.  Morgan Freeman's son Alfonso appears briefly as a mental health doctor.

I haven't revealed much about the plot (madness, infidelity, scandal, etc.) because finding out is the fun part.  SHATTERED is like a passable TV-movie that gradually evolves from dull to interesting and manages to stay that way until the end, which is more than I can say for a lot of movies I've seen.

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