In Rodrigo Cortes’ Red Lights Sigourney Weaver plays Dr. Margaret Matheson who alongside her assistant Tom Buckly (Cillian Murphy) find scientific explanations to supernatural events. Matheson has reached a point in which she finds little joy in her work, as she and Buckly have pretty much debunked everyone. With the reappearance of infamous psychic/healer Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), Buckly suggests investigating him much to Matheson’s reluctance. There is a strange past between Silver and Matheson, and when a tragic event occurs Buckly goes on the offence trying to desperately prove that Silver is a fraud.
Writer/director Rodrigo Cortes does an okay job with this film. The script is effective, smart and occasionally funny. The themes concerning the afterlife, powers and beliefs are interesting and open up the doors for discussions. What we get in the film is a variety of characters fighting profusely for what they believe and those beliefs get challenged constantly. Is there an afterlife? Are there people out there with supernatural powers? If you’ve spend your whole life debunking “supernatural” occurrences how will that affect you? What do you think you know? All of these questions make things much more interesting, but it is unfortunate that none of them are explored that much. They are all replaced by cheap thrills.
What starts off as an in intriguing and thoughtful film quickly turns into a thriller that utilizes every trick in the book. Rodrigo Cortes blew people away, me included, with his excellent debut film Buried is utterly grasping for straws here in Red Lights. In Buried he was able to create not only some visually arresting shots, but also assemble a story that while simple never missed a beat. With Red Lights he has a bigger sandbox to play with and in the end nothing worthwhile comes into fruition. The scares aren’t scary, some of the characters actions towards each other seem to be triggered only to further the plot and not even the excellent cast can muster something special out of all this mess.
The always reliable Cillian Murphy is okay in the film although I expected much more from him. There is a certain point later on in the film where his character turns from a charismatic, intelligent and mysterious man to a paranoid idiot whose default is to scream in your face. Murphy goes over-the-top way too much and I for one was left very disappointed. Robert De Niro is also okay but I have to admit that this particular role is just so strange on him. He doesn’t really sell the whole powerful psychic/healer and in certain situations I found him laughably bad. De Niro also defaults into simply screaming at people later on in the film. The only good performance comes from Sigourney Weaver. She brings real gravitas, empathy and careful analysis to the proceedings. It is because of her that the first half is so enjoyable.
My initial reluctance to watch this film was justified after the fact. Those trailers didn’t sell the film that well and even though the concept of Red Lights was interesting, I could see that it wouldn’t deliver. Rodrigo Cortes has assembled a film that starts off pretty great but dives down into conventional notions of thrillers that achieve nothing but annoyance and unintentional laughter. The cast does what they can with the material but I’d say that the reason why most of them falter is because of bad direction. The two male leads feel like cartoons after the first half and they are not even that enjoyable to watch. In truth, the only reason why I didn’t shut the film off was to see the final showdown that the trailers hinted at. There is no such thing and everyone would do well to skip this film all together.
- enternechoplex posted this