- Running time:
- 118 minutes
- Cillian Murphy -
- Tom Buckley
- Sigourney Weaver -
- Margaret Matheson
- Robert De Niro -
- Simon Silver
- Tony Jones -
- Paul Shackleton
- Joely Richardson -
- Monica Hansen
Someone should have stopped Red Lights.
The original script must have read better than the final version. (* * out of four; rated R; opens Friday in select cities) Or perhaps Robert De Niro signed on first, and the other actors flocked on board when they heard he was starring.
Still, it's mystifying how such a muddled and silly movie drew the talented cast it did.
Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy play a pair of professional paranormal researchers. Weaver is Margaret Matheson, the hard-core cynic of the two. She haughtily debunks the existence of poltergeists and ghosts, scoffing at faith healers and clairvoyants. Her partner, physicist Tom Buckley (Murphy), is less smugly certain. The pair investigate tirelessly, poking holes through claims of supernatural goings-on. They even make house calls.
The title derives from Margaret's term for fakery: "Red lights" are subtle clues to the scams and tricks behind supposedly paranormal events.
Things kick off promisingly. Margaret and Tom see through a trumped-up seance and expose a phoney faith healer.
But then someone who Margaret believes to be the biggest con artist of all, the blind psychic Simon Silver (De Niro), comes out of retirement. A scandal implicating him in the death of a skeptical journalist pushed him into seclusion for three decades. But he has suddenly, without explanation, decided to come back into the limelight.
Once Simon is on the scene, Margaret's confidence goes to mush, and the movie disintegrates with it. The story derails, growing increasingly incoherent and overheated.
"He did it to me, and now he's doing it to you," Margaret warns Tom obliquely.
"What does that even mean?" Tom asks. The audience echoes his confusion.
Red Lights writer/director Rodrigo Cortés directed the much more frightening Buried, which starred Ryan Reynolds as an American contractor buried alive in Iraq. The claustrophobic tension of that film was much more fearsome than Red Lights' shenanigans.
Weaver is a potent force here until the film shifts gears and the story becomes a battle between Simon and Tom, who is hellbent on investigating the blind psychic. It's really no contest.
Overwrought as his performance is, at least De Niro seems to have invested his character with a back story. But Weaver and Murphy are like cardboard cutouts, behaving inexplicably or inconsistently.
The premise of applying scientific research to frauds and hucksters who claim to have psychic powers is intriguing on its face. But Red Lights doesn't live up to its potential. The thriller vacillates between dull and chaotic, running out of steam early on and culminating in a ridiculous twist.
Movie theaters and showtimes for Red Lights in Des Moines.
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