Frailty (2001) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A mysterious man arrives at the offices of an FBI agent and recounts his childhood: how his religious fanatic father received visions telling him to destroy people who were in fact "demons."

  • FBI agent Wesley Doyle is startled by the declaration of youngster Fenton Meiks about how his father's delusions required him and his brother, Adam to become his 'demon-slaying' murder accomplices. But when Doyle accepts to be shown concealed victim graves, the plot twists in the present just as gruesome.

  • Fenton Meeks, comes forth to tell the FBI that his brother Adam may be the serial killer who calls himself God's Hands, who the FBI has been searching for. The film uses flashbacks to show Meeks' childhood with a father who believed he was on a mission from God to destroy demons that inhabit human bodies. Fenton saw his dad as evil, while Adam saw him as a hero.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • (some of the following content first appeared on realmoviereview.com)

    Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) walks into an FBI office late one evening and announces that he has information about a serial killer known as the God's Hands Killer that he will only give to the lead investigator. When Agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) arrives, Meiks says the killer is his brother, Adam, who has just died. Fenton is cool and distant, and Doyle is obviously skeptical. Fenton admits to stealing his brother's body and an ambulance, to fulfill a promise to bury him in the "rose garden", and Doyle confirms this story by calling a small town sheriff's office. Fenton does not answer Doyle's direct questions about why Fenton knows Adam is the killer. Instead, he begins a long, involved tale about his family history.

    The small family of auto mechanic Dad (Bill Paxton) and two boys has survived the loss of their mother. Twelve year old Fenton (played by Matt OLeary) is cooking meals and supervising his younger brother, Adam (played by Jeremy Sumpter).

    In the middle of one night, their father wakes them to say he's received a message from God. An Angel appeared to him, saying that they (Dad and the boys) have been selected to be God's Hands and cleanse demons from the world. He's been told to wait, and God will provide weapons and more information. Adam is excited about being a crime-fighting superhero, but Fenton is alarmed, asking if Dad just dreamt it or imagined it. Dad is sure it was real, but admits he doesn't know how it will all work, and admonishes the boys to keep it secret. He says if they tell, "someone will die."

    Fenton's hopes that the idea will go away are dashed by subsequent events. Dad is drawn to ordinary-looking items by a beam of light from above, and proudly bears them home as weapons provided by the Angel: an axe, some gloves, a length of pipe. One night Dad comes home excited, showing a list of names the angel gave him in another vision. Fenton still can't believe this is happening. Dad states that these are not people, they are demons, and destroying them is God's will.

    Fenton hears a sound another night, and looking outside sees Dad carrying a wrapped body over his shoulder. Dad summons both boys to the shed out back, where he drops the woman, alive. She has tape over her mouth, and her hands and feet are tightly bound. Dad removes the gloves, as he's realised that touching a demon with his bare hands will reveal its true nature. He fearfully reaches towards her. When Dad's hand contacts her arm, his body stiffens and he seems electrified, shaking rapidly with an horrified expression. Dad, sure now that she is a demon, takes the axe and swings it high in the air toward her, and there's the sound of it striking home.

    Dad digs a grave in the rose garden behind the house. Fenton is crying that Dad has killed someone, while Dad is only sad that Fenton could not see her demon nature. Adam insists that he was able to see it, but Fenton says Adam is just lying.

    At times during this tale, Agent Doyle has pressed the adult Fenton for answers, which he does not always give. Fenton offers to prove it, to show him the rose garden where the bodies are buried. Doyle has him put on cuffs and get in the secured back seat of a car, and begins driving to the site. Fenton continues to tell the tale in response to Doyle's questions.

    Dad acquires a van and they seek out their next target, an older man who is walking into a grocery store. Dad explains that even in broad daylight, God will protect them from being seen. Dad forces Fenton to take part in the ruse to capture the man: pretending to call a dog out from under the man's car. As Dad knocks the man out, Fenton runs away crying, but cannot sum up the courage to tell the police and turn Dad in for murder.

    Dad assigns Fenton to dig a massive pit in the backyard, and charges him to pray, to accept God's will for their family's work. Fenton angrily digs for days, refusing gloves for his bleeding hands, and does not find spiritual comfort. They board the sides of the pit and add a roof, then slide the shed on top of it, creating a small cellar ... aware of its purpose, Fenton calls it a dungeon.

    When the next victim is brought, Fenton refuses to use the axe and flees, running to tell the sheriff what is happening. The sheriff pretends to agree to check, then brings Fenton home to Dad. The sheriff and Dad scoff at the story, but Fenton insists despite Dad's warning glances. Fenton brings the sheriff to the dungeon ... and Dad kills him. Then Dad vomits and cries that Fenton has made him a murderer, because he wasn't supposed to tell. Fenton says Dad is already a murderer, but Dad insists his other victims weren't people and had to be destroyed.

    As punishment, Dad locks Fenton in the cellar until he is in contact with God. After the first week, Fenton tells Dad there is no God. As his confinement continues, he begins to hallucinate. When he becomes unresponsive, they bring him out, and Fenton smiles and tells his father that he has seen God and understands his purpose now.

    Fenton is serene and confident as they go to the home of their next victim, a nasty man who is abusive towards his wife. They knock him out and bring him home. Dad performs the bare-handed touch ritual, and nods to Fenton to destroy this demon using the axe. Fenton raises it in the air .... and swings the axe sideways into Dad. Dad falls backwards across the room, the axe blade in his chest. Shocked, emotions race across his face. Adam runs to him, and Dad whispers in Adam's ear before he dies. Fenton turns to the prisoner on the floor and rips the tape from his mouth. The man cries out in warning as Adam runs towards them and swings the axe, completing Dad's intention.

    Fenton and Adam are burying their father and the demon in the rose garden. Fenton asks Adam to promise that "when you destroy me, you'll bury me here". Adam vows to do so.

    Agent Doyle expresses confusion - why did Adam promise Fenton to bury him there, when it is Fenton that has confessed to keeping a promise by burying Adam in the rose garden? The man known to us as Fenton Meiks reveals that he has concealed his identity, that he is actually Adam, and has buried his brother Fenton that night. Doyle suddenly realises he has put himself in danger, alone in a garden of graves with a killer. They struggle - and Doyle is knocked to the ground, wounded. As Adam touches him, horrible visions flash past - Agent Doyle killing his own mother with blood spattering everywhere, Dad's first female victim lying in bed with a man whose throat is cut, the older man luring a little girl with candy, then pulling her lifeless body from his car ... The last vision is of the real Fenton's death, at his brother Adam's hands. There is no struggle, they both have accepted the inevitable. Back in the present, Adam swings the family axe, then digs a new grave.

    At the FBI building the next day, those seeking the missing Agent Doyle are surprised to find that all of the security camera footage of "Fenton" is scrambled and distorted, so that his face cannot be seen. They travel to the real Fenton Meiks' house, and find his body, along with a list of his victims. The last name on the list is Wesley Doyle.

    One agent is sent to the small town sheriff's office that received Doyle's call at the beginning of the Meiks' interview. The secretary summons the sheriff - a neatly uniformed Adam Meiks. As he leaves, he tells Adam they wanted him to know about his brother before word got out to the press. Adam shakes his hand firmly, then holds on a bit longer, to the agent's confusion. Adam nods and says, "You're a good man." The secretary walks out and stands behind Adam, saying, "Praise God."

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