Monday, January 14, 2013

Red Lights

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Red Lights – 3 out of 5

“The only way to pull a rabbit out of a hat is to put it there in the first place.”

That’s what Cillian Murphy’s character in this film says and not only is it a really cool simple quote for skeptics like myself but it sets up the film perfectly.

Same lighting I use for my make-out sessions.  Probably explains the look of fear
on Murphy's face.

And there's an actual red light in the film.  Pretty fucking
Red Lights is about two college professors who work at debunking psychic phenomenon. However, if you’re Sylvia Browne, you are pretty much debunking yourself. Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and her assistant; Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy), spend their days teaching students how the fraud psychic industry frauds their clientele and spends their nights exposing said frauds (can you tell yet if I believe in this snake oil?). However, when famed reclusive psychic Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) comes out of retirement, Buckley becomes obsessed with convincing Matheson to try and expose Silver as a fake. Matheson is adamant about not going after Silver which makes Buckley even more convinced. However, mysterious events start to unfold and it seems that Silver may be the real deal.

Simon Silver wears his sunglasses at night...because he's blind, you inconsiderate

With a story about exposing fakes, strong performances from great actors and a nice twist ending, the film is just dripping wet with potential. However, some of the potential gets wasted thanks to some sloppy character development, a completely needless character and a chaotic plot that was in desperate need of organizing.

She's about to inform some bitch to get away from someone else.

I’ll say this right now; the story for this film is cool. I like the idea of people out to prove charlatans to be liars and con artists mainly because I don’t believe in that hocus pocus nonsense but the added element of the “white whale” psychic who’s never been debunked, seems untouchable and could may be the one who actually has the powers the main characters seek out to prove doesn’t exist makes for a tantalizing thriller for me. Sadly, the film suffers slightly with a plot that gets jumbled at points. Granted, once the big reveal happens at the end, some of these fumbled moments make sense but they could have made sense if the plot was better feathered out to begin with. A film doesn’t have to be mysterious through the use of bad storytelling. However, even though the plot got messy at points, it still wasn’t as bad as tacking on a pointless character that literally brings nothing to the table throughout the film until the final moments.

"You talking to me?  No, seriously I'm asking.  I can't see a thing.  This room has
terrible lighting.  Let's get those make-out lights back on."

The least likely Olsen sister to end up dead from drugs; Elizabeth Olsen—you know, the one from that incredibly boring horror film made to look like one long simultaneous shot—stars as a girl named Sally Owen—a name I only know from looking it up on IMDb because I don’t recall her name even being mentioned in the film. Her exact role in the film is a bigger mystery than if Simon Silver is a real psychic or not or why Snooki has been made a celebrity.

The strain of my last question taking its toll...or the strain of an awful dump.

She enters the film as a student in Matheson’s class and is then seen dropping off an assignment with Buckley. It seems she’s interested in doing some of the on-sight work that Matheson and Buckley do but then Sally suddenly disappears. She later reappears in Buckley’s bed before disappearing again and then reappearing in order to reveal the twist ending. Olsen’s character is, and this is a rarity, a completely needless character that could have been written out of the film and, if it wasn’t for the final moments of the film, could have been edited out of the movie and it would have done nothing to change the film at all.

Just like a typical Olsen sister to be complete useless to society.

"How did it get burned?  I mean--why is Olsen in the film?"
Olsen’s lifeless performance doing nothing to help the forgettable character to begin with, the character of Sally can literally disappear within a scene and you don’t even notice. In fact, right before the film cuts to the credits, she disappears from the scene she was just in and it makes no difference to the story. Sally’s character is a walking/talking plot device that does nothing for the plot until the end. Was she an aspiring debunker? Was she the love interest to Buckley? Who the hell knows because she appears and disappears and reappears like SHE’S the one with magical powers throughout the film. It sounds harsh but her character is 100% worthless to the story and plot and wasn’t needed at all.

Did Olsen do this to Murphy's character?  Actually, no.  Like I said, her character is

These two complaints aren’t enough to hurt the overall entertainment factor I got from the film. Yes, the plot is messy and yes there is a character who is better removed from the picture but a cool story and great performances from the principle actors keeps this movie in the middle of the road with no real danger of being completely full of shit (like psychics) but is not enough to make it truly memorable and give reasons for repeat viewings. I’m a little disappointed this film wasn’t better because I had high hopes for it thanks to a trailer that really sold me on it…

But the film could have been much worse. The majority of the film is dedicated to character—especially what drives Buckley and Matheson to do their work—and it refrains from diving head first into a pool of absurdity that is always in danger of being around. It could have been easy for the film to do a lot of over-the-top stuff when it comes to this psychic business but decided to keep it in the realm of the modest and it builds at such a consistent level that by the time the real outrageous stuff happens you’re not instantly calling out bullshit. It’s like Spielberg’s development of the dangers of the shark in Jaws. He did such a tremendous job with pace that when the big-ass shark jumps out of the water and lands on the back of the Orca you didn’t say, “Hey…sharks can’t do that.”

"Am I the bitch who needs to get away from her, Mrs. Weaver?"

In fact, this is the film’s strongest aspect. Even with really great performances—even one from Toby Jones who plays a scientist who believes in this hub-bubbery—the film’s strongest delivery comes in the film’s pace—quite a feat when you realizes that the plot suffers at times from some disorganization. Red Lights could have been better (eliminating Elizabeth Olsen’s pointless character should have been first on the chopping block) but it wasn’t completely terrible either. When the credits hit, it was a decent thriller with a killer story.

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