“Shattered”–aka “Butterfly on a Wheel”

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This intriguing tale of vengeance is centered on a theme found in Alexander Pope’s Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot” (1735) in which placing undue effort on a minor issue is like breaking a “butterfly on a wheel”.  And this first-rate thriller was so named in its British and Canadian release (2007), to be retitled “Shattered” for an American audience.

The story takes place in Chicago, where Neil Randall (played by the surprisingly good Gerald Butler) is an executive of an advertising agency. He is a cunning ad man plotting his path to the top while also a family man with a beautiful and sexy wife, Abby (Maria Bello) and a lovely young daughter, Sophie.  He is living the American Dream.

His wife Abby hires a babysitter so that she and her husband can spend the weekend at the CEO’s country house, presumably to cultivate even more political points to becoming his successor.  Without giving away too much of the plot, all I will say is that a mysterious intruder, Tom Ryan (the exceptional Pierce Brosnan) turns their world upside down. While keeping the couple under his total control, he makes it clear that his overriding intention is to destroy Neil’s perfect life.

“Shattered” is paced to perfection.  What unfolds rapidly is a cat-and-mouse game in which the clues and menace are only hinted at, but always cleverly hidden.  There are so many curves along the way, that even when viewers think they have figured out motivation and outcome, with a plot this peppered with red herrings, the vast majority will be thrown off track.

Once again, we get to see that Pierce Brosnan is not just another pretty face, but capable of remarkable acting in a role contrary to those he has played in the past.  Maria Bello is often unrecognized even though she consistently is outstanding, as she is here.  And Gerald Butler is perhaps featured in his only respectable role to date, revealing that he really can act.

“Shattered” should have received major distribution, great fanfare, advance hype and viral marketing, as well as viewer recommendations.I wonder how such a gem flew under the radar. Perhaps a little more effort should have been placed on this edgy little sleeper of a movie.

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