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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Nov 4: Red Lights


Nov 4: Red Lights

"Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic who has resurfaced years after his toughest critic mysteriously passed away."
Directed by: Rodrigo Cortes, Rated: R, 113 minutes

For those of you who have been reading this blog from the start, you know how big of a fan I am of Rodrigo Cortes' 2010 masterpiece, Buried. It's a film that proved to be incredible on both technical aspects and on how to craft a story. Well, Cortes' followup, Red Lights, doesn't have the wow factor of buried, nor is it really an experiment in filmmaker. It is, however, a well-crafted thriller that has plenty of things going for it. Unfortunately, in contrast, there are a handful of things to dislike about the film, such as a rather weak second act that leaves the movie stumbling onward towards its conclusion.

I still stand by Ryan Reynolds and feel he was completely overlooked for the Oscars in 2011. 

The film's introduction is incredibly engaging. Sigourney Weaver plays Margaret Matheson, a psychologist who makes a living off of proving the illegitimacy of so-called "psychics" that scam their audiences into believing what they do is real. Her assistant, Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) is a genius physicist but refuses to teach in his field, because of his loyalty to Margaret and the fact he finds what they do incredibly interesting. When retired all-star psychic, Simon Silver (Robert DeNiro), decides to get back into the game years after an accident, the world turns its focus upon the man, as do Tom and Margaret. A shroud of mystery surrounds Silver and Tom struggles to find out how he manages to seemingly read minds, bend spoons, and do all sorts of psychic things. As the secrets begin to unravel, Tom realizes that there is much greater things behind all of the happenings. Unfortunately, he's too caught up in everything and the only way "out" is to continue moving forward, facing Silver head on. 

You don't fock around with this guy. 

The first thirty minutes of Red Lights shows the duo taking down a handful of psychics by hijacking radio frequencies and all sorts of clever methods to prove they're fake. It's a job I certainly would love to have myself as I can only see great joy in ruining the lives of these high profile scam artists. It's also one of the better parts of the film and starts the film off with a lot of excitement. Unfortunately, the second act loses the energy of the intro and as more questions are raised, Red Lights grows tiresome. Lucky for us, by its conclusion, the movie regains its composure and delivers a pretty unique and unpredictable finish that honestly leaves you satisfied, even if some of those questions are still left unanswered. It's something that is easy to look past after the credits roll, but after processing your thoughts about everything, you're left with a rather bland taste in your mouth.

Mainstream psychics like this asshole need to "cross-over" into oblivion. 

A large part of the (somewhat) success of Red Lights is its cast. Cortes managed to recruit some incredible actors for his followup and they elevate it to something worth watching. Sigourney Weaver's role is somewhat substantial and reminds us that she's more talented than her sci-fi cameos. Robert DeNiro also seems to be getting a better grasp on his career, and doesn't quite remind us of his past greatness, but takes a step back toward it.  But even with two powerhouses, the star of Red Lights is Cillian Murphy, who shows us time and again that he's one of the greatest actors working today. He's mesmerizing as Tom Buckley and steals every scene he's in. He has this intensity about him that you don't find a lot and as his paranoia combines with his own intelligence (that Murphy always brings to the table), you can't help but understand his skewed frustrations. Personally, I would watch the man talk to a wall for ninety minutes, as I find him that interesting, and Red Lights does a great job of complimenting his abilities. The film also packs a strong supporting cast that includes Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones, and Craig Roberts. 

Seriously, world. Give this man every damn award you can think of. Shower him with love. Admire his talents. IDOLIZE HIM.

Red Lights received an incredibly small release in theaters and a quiet release on DVD. It's a film that deserves some love and attention for its acting and at times, its clever script. Rodrigo Cortes proves again that he's a talented filmmaker and while it's not on the same level as Buried, Red Lights still manages to be successful. It's suspenseful with plenty of twists, and has a unique ending that left me wanting a sequel (that would head in a completely opposite direction). Call me a nice guy, but I can forgive the film's faults and definitely recommend it. While it's not worth running out and buying, it's certainly worth renting and I really hope more people give this under-looked film a chance. If anything, the love and attention you'd show the film would at least give Cortes the money he deserves to continue making movies that are far more unconventional than what we're used to seeing.

The Good:
terrific acting that carries the film above averageness and turns the movie into a very interesting ride
The Bad:
a second act that's lacking the energy of the introduction and leaves you slightly bored
The Ugly:
knowing that there is a large majority of people that believe in psychics and rely on them for many of their day to day decisions


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At November 5, 2012 at 9:33 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with you, sir, on a couple of points. One, I loved this movie and gave it 5/5 stars. However, I wanted to point out that I hated "Buried" (Gave it...I think 2/5). In the time span of one to two months, there was three buried alive movies, almost all identical. All filmed in one coffin like thing, and all were terrible. The other two were "Coffin" and "Brake". However, the first one I saw of the bunch was Buried. It was also the best one, but I hated the ending. I'll tell you why I hated the ending. For the same reason I hated Sandra Bullock's "Premonition"...the ending made the entire movie pointless. Sometimes bad endings are awesome, as that was the only way to make it great, it's what it needed. Other times, that was the wrong route, as it made the whole thing a waste of my time (and sometimes money). If you would have asked me when it came out my vote, I would have said "Burn it" faster than you could finish the question.

Sidenote: I believe in psychics, but I also believe they are rare. (Like...pretty much how the film described it). I also believe in ghosts, have seen shadowmen, smelled/felt a demon, had a very strange and physical altercation with a demon (literally faces touching), heard a hell hound, experienced two connected dreams, all of which I didn't really believe in more than two years ago, nor wanted to ever experience. Call me crazy if you want, but insanity is defined by debilitating someone so they cannot reasonably perform naturally day to day. I have this history, I've accepted it and I've moved on.

So there.

At November 5, 2012 at 11:16 AM , Blogger Nick said...

Well, Dave. Thanks for leaving the comment. I'm glad the belief, however, hasn't completely debilitated you. That's more of what the Ugly meant anyway, so no offense there.

I will also defend Buried until my dying day lol. As for the other two, Coffin and Brake. I haven't seen Coffin but I really liked Brake, but that too suffers from a horrible ending.

At November 8, 2012 at 4:50 PM , Anonymous Monkeyboy said...

Blimey! Are you sure you don't live on the Hellmouth? I'd contact your nearest cheerleader. Should sort out your demon problems.

At December 1, 2012 at 1:24 PM , Blogger Ben Hayward said...

I thought the twist ending was one of the worst I've ever seen.

It literally made me question the whole 2 hours. I mean, SPOILERS, if Cillian Murphy's character is psychic, it throws up so many questions and makes a lot of the film seem rather silly.

Up until the twist, I was pretty engrossed. 6/10 overall for me.

At December 1, 2012 at 4:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely disagree. That was the whole point, he wanted to avoid the fact that he had abilities, and somehow prove that maybe he was crazy. It was in reality both man v man, and man v self

At December 1, 2012 at 4:53 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Sorry Ben, but I agree with Dave. I liked the ending a lot. I wouldn't call it a twist as much of a revelation lol. Twist it makes it sound much cheaper than I think it really is.


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