“Just Goes Nuts”

On 1.21.12 I reviewed Rodrigo Cortez‘s Red Lights (Millenium, 7.13) at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s about a pair of investigators, Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy), who specialize in debunking bogus paranormal claims. Weaver is persuaded there’s no such animal as a ghost or messages from the after-life or anything along those lines — it’s all about theatre and seducing the gullible.

“The story gradually builds into an epic confrontation between the Weaver forces and Simon Silver (Robert DeNiro), perhaps the greatest paranormal performer or hoodwinker of all time…or is he?

“The first 40 minutes are devoted to exploring Weaver’s literal and rational-minded reasons for being a skeptic, and a little about her own personal background involving a comatose son. And then something happens that I shouldn’t divulge, but when that thing happens the tone set by Weaver’s rationality is thrown out the window and the film devolves into a kind of emotional madhouse with ‘boo!’ jolts thrown in from time to time, plus a lot of raging emotion and red herrings that don’t lead anywhere and plot threads that aren’t developed and/or are abandoned.

“It just goes nuts, this film. A kind of ComicCon idiot gene takes over. I was saying to myself, ‘What happened here? This thing was smart, absorbing and moving along pretty good fora while and then wham…a cheesy cheap-shock virus invaded and it went south.'”

  • Raising_Kaned

    This will undoubtedly get swallowed up by the inevitable mid-July Batmania, but this is a rather impressive cast assembled here for what essentially amounts to an no-name genre director. Buried was very, very interesting, though — a great calling card! — which I imagine is what got the actors (or at least their agents) onboard here.

    I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t appreciate the plot twist (or whatever the hell happens halfway through), but at least it doesn’t sound boring. In the light of such recent spoilery activity on this site, I for one really appreciate not giving away any specifics of a movie that isn’t even close to opening wide yet (it’s fine if you do, by the way, just give some warning first…please?).

    Anyway, hope you’re enjoying your “time off,” and look forward to checking back in tomorrow for your take on Prometheus (just keep in mind you’re seeing it a week earlier than most of us, mmmkay?).

  • aaronhal9000

    Actually, I think the cast is the LEAST it has going for it. Murphy, Weaver, and DeNiro are like watching empty space. There is nothing interesting about them anymore. The twists and turns could be predictable and no one would care if the actors were fascinating to watch.

    Casting Murphy and Weaver as two scientists…completely predictable. No contrast between them because they are both perceived as analytical. Watching them converse with each other will be like watching paint dry.

    Casting DeNiro as some telekinetic magus is insanely stupid. Is there anything about him an audience hasn’t seen that he could somehow transmute into a great performance? Like it or not, he is completely typecast. Ian McKellen would have been a far more inspired choice, although I doubt he’d touch this with a ten foot pole.

  • BoulderKid

    Wow aaron, now tell us what you really think. I get what you’re saying about Murphy and Weaver, they could practically be related, but you could show a little faith. Ideally you would switch one of them out for a more headstrong presence like Jeremy Renner.

  • Raising_Kaned

    To be very clear, I meant the cast was “impressive” in a, “I actually know who they are”-kinda way — not necessarily in a, “Wow, they’re so perfect for this movie!”-kinda way (given his behavior in this trailer, I’m already quite worried about more De Niro scenery-chewing).

    My overall point is this is the kind of mid-range flick you would normally expect to find Olsen and Murphy in at this stage of their career, but not really RDN or Weaver (and especially not both in leading roles).

    Still interested in seeing this, and perhaps even moreso (?) after JW’s cryptic comment that “it goes nuts.” I can definitely appreciate that in a film — even if it isn’t quite working while I’m watching it.

  • aaronhal9000

    My point is that this film is obviously formulaic. There will be no surprises. What could have made it interesting is less of a cookie cutter approach to casting. So what if these are big names? If they don’t fit the roles they only bring down the house of cards. Great casting can elevate decent material to close to being good. It can make good material entertaining and great material a masterpiece.

    This will never be a masterpiece (or even good), but the creators could at least have fought for inspired choices. That, on the whole, is why so many bad films are made. Too many people believing that a choice is “good enough” rather than giving it more consideration. That applies to choices on-set just as much as what is done in pre-production and post.

    If you make a film and look back on it, do you want to say to yourself, “The film was okay, but I was dealing with the conventions of cinema at that place in time,” or do you want to know you earned the ulcer it took to be bold?

  • aaronhal9000

    @BoulderKid – Funny. :-) I saw Renner in a short he did way before he broke out with Hurt Locker. Same damn performance. It’s a shame we have so many actors that are a brand, rather than an artist. They are more like cartoon characters. Look at how Pacino morphed into a Looney Tunes version of himself after the mid-80s. Smart guy. Too bad he knows he’s capable of more.

  • Raising_Kaned

    You’re making a lot of assumptions based on a film you haven’t seen yet, Aaron. Then again, so am I…but at least I have Wells (who has seen it) backing me up on the “interesting” count, to wit: “Rodrigo Cortes’ Red Lights, which screened at 10 pm last night, plays differently than you might expect — I’ll give it that.”

    Now that above description doesn’t really smack of “obviously formula” to me (and neither did Buried, for that matter…).