Shattered (1991) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's comments in white (MAJOR SPOILERS):

I always complain when thrillers are so implausible that the events could not possibly have really happened within any reasonable limit of probability, so I am indulging in some serious hypocrisy here when I say that this mystery/thriller entertained the hell out of me even though the whole thing was so contrived as to defy all common sense and logic.

The confusion so typical of this genre actually worked in this context, because the hero (Tom Berenger) had amnesia caused by a severe auto accident, and he was trying to reconstruct his own life. Our confusion mirrors his own.  Oh, yeah, I know that filmmakers use amnesia even more often and even less plausibly than they use multiple personality disorder. Has anyone ever met anybody who had amnesia in real life that resembled "movie amnesia"? I have never known of anyone with amnesia of any type, and I've never met anyone who has. I suppose even very limited traumatic amnesia affects only a miniscule portion of the population, and "movie style total traumatic amnesia" must be rarer than spotted owls, although hundreds of movie and TV scripts hinge on it.

I willfully ignored my distaste for the amnesia gimmick because the film is photographed and acted proficiently, and the director (Wolfgang Petersen - the same guy who directed Das Boot!) managed to keep the feeling of suspense at a high level.

Tuna mentioned that the ending surprised him, but I guess I've been around the block far too many times with these thrillers, because I guessed it immediately, in about the first two minutes of the movie. I explained my theory to my daughter, and she bet that "it couldn't be that twisted", but I won the bet, because I expect Hollywood thrillers to defy all logic, and I start with the assumption that such is the case. I am also expecting the Spanish Inquisition to arrive at any minute

Even though I foresaw the twist, I still enjoyed the way the film fleshed out the details, and I enjoyed trying to guess who was in on it and who wasn't, as well as who knew what.


Greta Scacchi shows her breasts in several scenes

  • The screenwriter did make one jumbo error, reminiscent of the famous chauffeur murder in The Big Sleep. (Background. The director of The Big Sleep was so confused by the plot that he called up Raymond Chandler, the author of the book, to clear up some plot points. Even Chandler could not explain who killed the chauffeur.) Greta Scacchi, the conniving femme fatale in Shattered, receives a phone call from a guy named Jack Stanton, somebody whose identity is integral to the entire mystery. The call was actually made by a man - we know this because of the maid who took the call. There is nobody who could have made that call! If the caller had been a woman, there could be a possible explanation, but the maid clearly said that she talked to Stanton himself, and it was a man's voice. Not possible! So the Stanton call goes on the unexplainable plot point list, along with the chauffeur murder.
  • At one point, while driving through a portion of a forest with no roads, Tom Berenger demonstrates driving skills and daring that would make Mario Andretti envious. In fact, it might make God envious. No matter who he really was, there was nothing in his past that could have explained this. When I watched that scene, I started to revise my interpretation of the "twist", thinking that the Berenger character might actually have been a stunt man hired to stage the accident in the opening scene. That wasn't an unreasonable thought, but it wasn't correct, and his unearthly driving ability remains unexplained.
  • Spoiler ahead: once we buy into amnesia, it is reasonable for the film to postulate that Berenger is simply a different man from whom we think he is. After all, one man with no memory, a man whose appearance has been completely reconstructed by plastic surgery, is pretty much interchangeable with another. But what is completely implausible is that nobody can tell he's a different man except his lover. His partner never suspects a thing, even though Berenger the architect suddenly has no idea how to do architecture. Did the two men (that Berenger might have been) have the same voice? The same birthmarks? Use the same vocabulary? Like the same food and music?
  • Although Berenger spends the entire film unable to remember anything, despite the ministrations of the top docs in the field, he suddenly remembers enough to tell us the entire plot with a minute to go in the film. How did this miracle happen? Bob Hoskins grabbed him by the collar and said, "you have to remember". Oh, OK. The oldest imaginary movie cure for an imaginary movie disease.
  • Stock footage of curling waves accompanied some pictures of Greta Scacchi's sex scenes, with the sex images dissolved into the waves. In addition to being the fourth oldest sex cliche in the book, the waves also prevented me from seeing the beautiful Ms Scacchi as clearly as I would have liked.

The three older sex pictorialization cliches:

1. Rockets

2. Fireworks

3. Train going into tunnel.



In addition to an entertainingly convoluted plot, the film had two other excellent features:

  • Bob Hoskins has a major role, and is as solid and down-to-earth as ever. It amazes me that this man has never won an Oscar. (He was nominated for Mona Lisa)
  • Greta Scacchi removes her shirt a lot, and this was back in the day when you would strain for a look at that sight.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1 and a full screen version, but no meaningful features.

Tuna's comments in yellow:

Shattered (1991) is impossible to say much at all about without writing a spoiler, and that would be a shame, as the ending caught me totally by surprise. I can say that it involves an accident, amnesia, and Greta Scacchi shows her breasts frequently throughout the film.

The DP was László Kovács, and it was shot in and around San Francisco, so the film looks great, and the MGM release has a pristine Widescreen transfer on one side, and a 4/3 on the other. Unfortunately, it is basically devoid of special features, and I would have liked a commentary on this one.

The Critics Vote

  • Ebert 2/4

The People Vote ...

  • Domestic gross: $11 million


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, both of our reviewers called it a solid C, an entertaining genre offering with enough graces to atone for its sins.

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