Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Red Lights

Robert De Niro, Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy, Elizabeth Olsen...don't be fooled by the cast! 'Red Lights', a tale about paranormal investigators (played by Weaver and Murphy) coming up against a formidable blind clairvoyant is pure hokum. Weaver is excellent, De Niro nothing special, Murphy by the numbers, and Olsen completely wasted (remember her in 'Martha Marcy May Marlene'), but the real let down is with director and writer Rodrigo Cortes. This is a classic case of someone taking on too much.
There is the seed of an interesting story here. Paranormal investigators, especially modern thoroughly scientific ones (do they really exist?), are appealing characters and provide a fertile environment for spooky happenings. More particularly Cortes is aiming at a Shyamalan-esque big twist (yes, there's one of those) that has a lot of potential too. However, at almost every turn he fumbles the ball. Starting off with a weak joke (Murphy wakes Weaver to tell her to get some sleep), we then get the obligatory debunking scene (to show what they do, how good they are, and the types of charlatans and issues they may encounter). All very well. But when weird things do start to happen the rigour and curiosity they initially showed seems to go out the window. We get unlikely, unbelievable encounters (Murphy visits a fraud he helped put in prison and expects help; Murphy assaults a fellow academic and then expects to be put on the man's committee) and bewildering non sequiturs (What is Silver doing giving private audiences? And how does he not recognise Murphy?).
The big twist is barely effective given the muddle that has gone before. Things are not helped by a consistently hyperactive approach to direction. High angles, a busy camera and rapid cutting (Cortes is editor too) all make the most mundane scene painfully bloated or portentous. Again 'muddle' is the word that comes to mind. He seems to have no sense of building tension, no understanding of structure. The climactic confrontation is hardly involving at all given that Cortes has already displayed all his wares in previous less important scenes. Cortez obviously got this gig on the strength of his earlier (overrated) 'Buried'. That film was set entirely in a coffin. Getting out of that box doesn't seem to have helped him much.

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