Bill Paxton was a phenomenal actor capable of pulling off drama, comedy, action, and everything else in between with equal levels of aplomb. One of the most egregious injustices to come from the late star’s career was that he only directed a solitary feature film – because harrowing psychological thriller Frailty remains one of the genre’s most painfully underrated gems.
Quietly released in April 2002, the powerful time-jumping narrative finds Matthew McConaughey’s Fenton Meeks go to the FBI to claim that his brother Adam could be the serial murderer known as the God’s Hand killer, with the story intercutting between the modern day and 1979 as we discover Paxton’s zealot-like father believes he’s been put on earth to eradicate the “sinners” revealed to him as demons by the man upstairs.
Even though Frailty scored enthusiastic reviews from critics and crowds alike, the $11 million feature only earned $17 million at the box office, but it has at least been spending the last 20 years continuing to cement itself as an severely overlooked treasure. It even packs one hell of a twist during the third act, which turns everything we thought we knew about the events told from Fenton’s perspective on their head.
It might be dark, dingy, unrelentingly bleak, and borderline nihilistic, but Frailty is one of those films that will never leave you once you’ve seen it for the first time. Paxton marked himself out as a fantastic filmmaker, but he never stepped foot behind the camera again prior to his death in 2017. That’s a desperate shame, because even now, the appreciation train continues rolling.