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By Adele Marley | Posted

How appropriate that Frailty star/first-time director Bill Paxton (A Simple Plan), screenwriter Brent Hanley, and most of the cast hail from the state in which the film is set--Texas, wrath-of-God-land and capital-punishment central. When strapping Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) confides in FBI agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) that he suspects his brother, who recently offed himself, was also a notorious serial killer, Doyle is skeptical. Meiks plunges into the story (told in an extended flashback) of his 1970s childhood, which was destroyed when his stand-up single dad (Paxton) starts hearing the voice of God telling him to kill. Twelve-year-old Fenton (Matthew O'Leary) realizes their father has gone crazy, but impressionable younger brother Adam (Jeremy Sumpter) aims to please Pop; their divergent opinions come into play when Dad enlists their help in forming God's personal hit squad. Paxton's performance is terrific--his character's creepy serenity suits a doting pop or a homicidal maniac equally well--and aside from a few lapses into visual cliché, his direction of this feverish yet sensitively told tale of Bible Belt terror is assured. Most stunning is the film's outcome: Maybe you'll see the final twist coming a mile away, but ultimately Frailty proposes that both good and evil are equally suspect. I can't think of a more purposely unsettling "happy" ending.

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