Review

Review

FEARNET Movie Review: 'Red Lights'

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The problem with occult thrillers in which the central character is a "professional debunker of the supernatural" is that it generally only has two places to go: our antagonist is correct, and the whole movie is just a house of cards waiting for a small gust of wind to show up in Act III -- or our cynical central character is wrong, supernatural entities and powers do exist, and then we're usually just left with a nifty ending that follows 95 minutes of meaningless hot air. (To be fair, the recent British import called The Awakening does a decent job with the "debunker vs. ghosts" theme.) I won't spoil the direction in which Rodrigo Cortes' Red Lights goes, but let's just say that much of the movie is a whole lot of bluster and blather, and in the end it signifies very little.

 
The bizarrely convoluted story follows a pair of ghost "busters" (Cillian Murphy and Sigourney Weaver, who do strike an amiable chemistry in the film's early going) who easily punch holes in various supernatural theories, demolish the hopes of nerdly colleagues (like Toby Jones), and basically do all they can to prove that ghosts, ESP, and otherworldly powers simply do not exist. But then (dramatic music) up pops a creepy psychic who's been "gone" for twenty years, which means our heroic team has the debunking of their lives ahead of them. The big question here is this: is Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) a prophet or a fraud? Writer/director Cortes (Buried) does all he can to make the audience think Silver is a mysterious force of nature, and since the flick takes way too long to make up its mind (113 minutes, really?), we're left pondering the movie's finale well before it shows up. 
 
Pretty to look at and packed with fine actors (Elizabeth OIsen and Joely Richardson pop up in colorful but pointless supporting roles, and Toby Jones is particularly good) Red Lights struggles as a thriller as it meanders through various plot threads that add little to the final product. Trimmed down and re-focused more on the thriller aspect and less on the frequent psycho-babble, Red Lights might go down a lot more smoothly, but every time the movie picks up some steam, it then lurches to a halt to reiterate plot points we already know, or spins its wheels in an effort to delay the ostensible twists that will inevitably crop up near the end. 
 
Cillian Murphy does what he can with a screenplay that wavers between provocative and preposterous, and Ms. Weaver gets to shine in a few quiet scenes, but most of De Niro's contributions are broad, wacky, and entirely worthy of random eye-rolling. By the time Red Lights draws to a close in very dramatic style inside of a giant concert hall, it almost feels like an occult thriller that has slowly transformed into a comedy -- and you didn't even notice. So while Red Lights is a pretty weird and frequently silly movie, it's not nearly bad enough to be laughable. The cast alone makes it a curiosity, and really, De Niro is truly a hoot in this flick.
 
PARTNER REVIEW
Horror Movie A Day
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