Review: RED LIGHTS (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Review: RED LIGHTS (2012)


In 2010, Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes stamped his mark in Hollywood with his unique thriller, BURIED, which was set entirely in a coffin and blessed with a tour de force performance by Ryan Reynolds. Now he's back again with sophomore effort titled as RED LIGHTS. Here lies the biggest question: is Rodrigo Cortes a one-trick pony or he's a capable director after all? The good news is, Cortes has a knack or two about delivering genuine suspense and in RED LIGHTS, he continues to deliver his unique storytelling method. To begin with, RED LIGHTS is blessed with an irresistibly captivating premise -- a supernatural genre that debunked the myth behind the otherworldly phenomena involving ghosts, telekinesis and such. It's like watching MythBusters with a supernatural twist.

Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and her assistant Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) are two professional paranormal skeptics dedicated to expose fraudsters who prey on the superstitions of unsuspecting clients. All this while, these brilliant investigators never fail to crack a case but not until the sudden re-appearance of a blind psychic Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), who has been missing for the last 30 years. Tom is very eager to investigate about Silver's so-called superhuman abilities who can read people's mind and even bend spoons at will. However, Margaret declines to challenge him at all and even warns him not to mess people like Simon Silver. But the stubborn Tom doesn't care and proceeds on his own investigation against Silver -- a result that subsequently causes a series of strange phenomena.

The first half is particularly fascinating, yet gripping enough to keep you entertained. It's hard not to get interested when the scene involves deconstructing the tactics of how psychics and hypnotists work to fool the unsuspecting audiences. That feeling is akin to watching a magician reveal his tricks (TV's Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed being a prime example). Likewise, Cortes delivers a series of well-timed suspense scenes. If only he manages to maintain the same momentum throughout the entire course of the movie, it would have been another cinematic masterpiece.

Unfortunately, the second half starts to spin out of control. Here, Cortes has somewhat undermines his own story and goes "suspension-of-disbelief" mode right until a bombastic third-act. Speaking of that third-act, Cortes finally pulls a sudden M. Night Shyamalan-like twist which is more baffling than intriguing. It's so unbelievable that one might question whether Cortes is totally run out of brilliant idea, simply chuck in whatever twist he can come out for and call it a day.

Despite all the flaws, RED LIGHTS remains a worthwhile thriller. The out-of-control second half may have been the biggest culprit, but at least Cortes manages to live up some thrilling moments involving Dr. Paul Shackleton (Toby Jones) tries to test Silver's superhuman abilities through careful lab research whether he's for real or simply a hoax. Another one involves an ugly fight scene between Buckley and a deranged man in the washroom.

Acting-wise, Sigourney Weaver delivers one of her most satisfying performances to date in her illustrious career. She is very good at playing no-nonsense character and her most memorable moment comes in an emotionally-driven scene involving her bad past with Simon Silver. Cillian Murphy is similarly engaging as well, especially the way he portrays a character so obsessed on uncovering the truth of Silver's superhuman abilities. Meanwhile, Robert De Niro seems to be channeling the same wicked character he used to play before in ANGEL HEART (1987). He's good at playing quietly menacing role but not until he goes full-blown lunatic in the climactic finale that is laughably over-the-top. Other supporting roles, including Elizabeth Olsen as Tom's student/love interest is fairly solid while Toby Jones is perfectly cast as a curious scientist.

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