Starting on July 13, Rodrigo Cortes’ Red Lights began its theatrical run and has continued to expand over the last few weeks, with more locations to come. Mike Ferraro caught up with the film this past week and found it to be a “dramatic film with no real payoff.” Check inside to read his thoughts.
In the film, “Robert De Niro stars as Simon Silver, a legendary psychic, perhaps the most famously gifted of all time, who returns after thirty years of mysterious absence to become the world’s greatest challenge to orthodox science and professional skeptics. Meanwhile, paranormal fraud investigator Tom (Cillian Murphy) begins to develop a dense obsession Silver, whose magnetism is enhanced dangerously with each new manifestation of inexplicable phenomena.”
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There are a lot of people out there that really get caught up in believing that these so-called psychic mediums or religious superstar evangelicals speak any words of truth without any help from technology (or members of their payroll). In fact, it amazes me that these people are somehow infinitely richer than I am or ever will be, despite the fact that they have way lower of an education level than I (my Master’s Degree in English won’t help pull even an eighth of the type of coin Joel Osteen or Sylvia Browne made in their time).
This is one of those injustices in the world that will never be fixed, no matter how much we want to believe in karmic distribution.
So comes Red Lights, director Rodrigo Cortés’ mostly disappointing follow-up to the otherwise competent and tense Buried. The film stars Sigourney Weaver as Margaret Matheson, an investigator into the psychic arena, and her partner Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy). These two travel from show to show in an attempt to figure just how these “psychics” hone in on intimate details of their followers, in order to captivate their imaginations (and their dollar bills).
Shortly into the film, a legendary blind man (Robert De Niro) pops back into the limelight after disappearing from public eye years ago. Certainly he is no Zatoichi – instead of swords, he uses mind-trickery and hypnosis to gain the trust of his millions of followers who have yearned for his return since the day he disappeared.
Red Lights starts off with an intriguing enough premise. Making a film that focuses on the investigations of the psychic world is certainly a premise that grabbed my attention, as my belief in such work is non-existent. When the film takes off, however, and makes the awkward (and failed) turn towards conspiracy thriller, it completely loses any ground it held during the exposition.
The film isn’t a complete failure. The actors (Weaver, De Niro, Murphy, and even Elizabeth Olson) do their best job with the material, and perhaps take it to heights the screenplay (also written by Cortés) just wasn’t meant to go. The photography isn’t bad to look at either. With cinematography by Xavi Giménez (The Machinist and Transsiberian), the look of the film is certainly dark enough to go along with its theme of shining a light in places not meant for clarity.
Is this a horror film? Certainly not. Is it a thriller? Afraid not. This is more of a dramatic film with no real payoff. Sure, there is the inevitable twist at the end that just comes across as lazy, but there is nothing that grabs your attention the way Ryan Reynolds stuck in a coffin for 90 minutes could. Too bad they didn’t study the psychic field a bit more. Then maybe Red Lights could have been a bit more hypnotic.