Film review: Red LightsBy Kim Francis
June 20, 2012
From the Spanish director behind the clever, claustrophobic suspense-filled Buried, you might expect a taut little thriller with edge.
But what you get from Rodrigo Cortés’ follow-up feature, Red Lights, is a bewildering mix of genres that add up to a movie you won’t know what to make of.
Much like its subject matter, it deceives, wrongfoots and misleads.
Doctors Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and assistant Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) are the twosome behind a crack team of investigators that exists to debunk the claims of mediums and psychics by proving them to be hoaxers.
When famed psychic Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) re-emerges after a long period out of the limelight, Buckley is eager to analyse the blind stage performer’s techniques – against the warnings of Margaret whose prior brush with Silver leads her to brand him dangerous.
Young, impetuous and eager for answers, her protégée presses ahead – with shocking consequences.
An odd blend of psychological thriller (in its pacing and tension) and horror (in its tone, ghostly goings-on and smattering of screen shocks) with dashes of romance and comedy, Red Lights always seems to be heading in a different direction to the destination it ends up in – but it never goes anywhere surprising, exciting or even particularly interesting.
Its twist ending is a big let down, even if you weren’t expecting much from the misfit thriller in the first place, and it ends with a big ‘Why?’ hanging over it, with all seeming so pointless.
Comedy elements are especially jarring. With the film’s initial setting up of Weaver and Murphy as a fake-psychic busting duo, it resounds with the mirthful tones of a buddy movie and you’re placed off balance from the outset – because you are given a hint of something that never develops further. More laughs come from the casting of a Robert De Niro-alike playing the Italian-American actor’s psychic character as a young man. Whether the comedy here is intentional or not, it really upsets the film’s equilibrium.
A role for indie screen queen Elizabeth Olsen as the love interest adds colour to the impressive cast in spite of the fact her character and motivations seem under-developed, but though the film’s execution fits its story, there’s no getting away from the fact it’s an underwhelming waste of time.