Frailty (2001 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byBill Paxton
Written byBrent Hanley
Produced byDavid Kirschner
StarringBill Paxton
Matthew McConaughey
Powers Boothe
Luke Askew
Jeremy Sumpter
Matt O'Leary
CinematographyBill Butler
Edited byArnold Glassman
Music byBrian Tyler
David Kirschner Productions
American Entertainment Co.
Cinerenta Medienbeteiligungs KG
Distributed byLions Gate Films
Release dates
November 7, 2001 (Deep Ellum Film Festival)
April 12, 2002 (United States)
Running time
99 minutes[1]
CountriesUnited States
Budget$11 million[2]
Box office$17.4 million[2]

Frailty is a 2001 psychological thriller film directed by and starring Bill Paxton, and co-starring Matthew McConaughey and Powers Boothe. It marks Paxton's directorial debut. The plot focuses on the strange relationship between two young brothers and their fanatically religious father, who believes that he has been commanded by God to kill demons disguised as people.


Fenton Meiks visits FBI Agent Wesley Doyle claiming that his brother Adam is the culprit in the "God's Hand" serial killings. Fenton says Adam has committed suicide, prompting Fenton to fulfill a promise to bury his brother in a public rose garden in their hometown of Thurman. He begins to tell Doyle about the boys' childhood and suggests that the bodies of the God's Hand victims are buried in the rose garden.

In the summer of 1979, when the brothers were children, their father told them that he had been visited by an angel and tasked by God with "destroying" demons disguised as human beings; a mission which must be kept secret. Their father "is led" to 3 tools: an axe, gloves and a pipe; he receives a list of names from the angel as well. He incapacitates a woman with the pipe and brings her home to kill with the axe. When he lays his hand on her, he claims to see a vision of her evil, then kills her and makes the boys help him bury her in the rose garden. Fenton is horrified and believes his father insane; Adam claims he sees the visions and supports their father.

After telling Doyle about the first killing, Doyle drives them to Thurman. On the way, Doyle tells Fenton that his mother had been murdered by someone that was never caught. Fenton then tells Doyle how they took the second victim in broad daylight, with his father insisting God would blind any witnesses. One night, Fenton's father tells him that after praying for the angel to visit Fenton (for his lack of faith) the angel instead visited him, and told him something bad about Fenton. He makes Fenton dig a hole and Fenton abandons all faith in God. Their father makes the hole into a cellar and moves the shed on top of it.

During the third episode, Fenton escapes from the cellar and runs to the sheriff who takes him back home. To quiet Fenton's apparent ramblings, the sheriff looks in the cellar, but finds it empty. As he leaves, their father kills him and is angry with Fenton for making him murder an innocent man. After burying the body, Fenton's father tells him the angel told him Fenton was a demon. To save him and encourage him to have faith, he locks Fenton in the cellar for over a week. Fenton claims to have been enlightened and his father releases him to carry out the next killing.

Fenton cooperates with his father to take the next victim but alerts him just before his father hits the man with the pipe, nearly blowing the scheme. In the cellar, Fenton readies to kill the man with the axe, but kills his father instead. As he tries to release the man, Adam takes up the axe and kills him anyway. While burying the two men, Fenton makes Adam promise to bury him in the garden if he ever "destroys" him.

Doyle is puzzled by his phrasing, since he said Adam killed himself. "Fenton" then reveals to Doyle that he is Adam. It is also revealed that Adam killed Fenton, who had grown up to become the actual God's Hand killer (a series of unrelated murders not committed by Adam "destroying" demons; Doyle is horrified to see the number of graves in the rose garden). Flashbacks reveal that Adam did in fact share his father's visions of the crimes of those they abducted, who were indeed demons. When Adam touches Doyle, a vision reveals that Doyle murdered his mother - he was on Adam's list. Adam kills him in a prepared grave as part of a long scheme to get him there.

After Doyle's disappearance, Agent Griffin Hull, who saw Adam, can't remember his face. The security tapes are also inexplicably obscured by static whenever Adam is in view. The FBI raid Fenton's house, finding the God's Hand list and Doyle's badge, which corroborate his being the killer. Agent Hull visits Adam Meiks, a nearby county sheriff, to tell him Fenton was the killer. Upon shaking his hand, Adam declares the agent a good man.



Frailty received generally positive reviews, with a 75% "Certified Fresh" rating on movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 154 reviews. The site's consensus states: "Creepy and disturbing, Frailty is well-crafted, low-key horror."[3] Roger Ebert in particular singled it out for praise, giving the film four out of four stars and declaring that "Frailty is an extraordinary work, concealing in its depths not only unexpected story turns but also implications, hidden at first, that make it even deeper and more sad."[4] Bloody Disgusting gave the film an 'Honorable Mention' in their list of the twenty best horror films of the 2000s, calling the film an "underrated gem [...] a small-scale, thought-provoking horror film that deserves a second look."[5] However, there are negative remarks on the performance, which was criticised by Nell Minow as "a cold reading of the script",[6] while one particular plot that the murders take place in front of the young sons and committed by a beloved father is considered "disturbing" and "an abuse of cinematic power."[6]

Box office[edit]

Frailty grossed $13,110,448 at the box office in North America, and $4,312,582 at foreign theaters, for a worldwide total of $17,423,030.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Frailty". Archived from the original on 2018-12-17. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
  2. ^ a b c "Frailty (2002) – Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 28, 2016. Information courtesy of Box Office Mojo. Used with permission.
  3. ^ "Frailty – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 12, 2002). "Frailty". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago, Illinois: Sun-Times Media Group. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
  5. ^ "00's Retrospect: Bloody Disgusting's Top 20 Films of the Decade...Part 1". Bloody Disgusting. December 15, 2009. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
  6. ^ a b Minow, Nell. "Frailty - Movie Review". Retrieved 2016-11-12 – via {{cite news}}: External link in |via= (help)

External links[edit]