If it's crap ... We'll tell you
What could possibly go wrong with a cast made up of Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen and Tobey Jones? Also with the director of the phenomenal Buried? Apparently a lot. Red Lights is a testament that it doesn't matter how well shot and acted a film is, if your script is crap. Film critic Richard Roeper went as far to call this movie one of the worst of the year. While I do not agree with that, I do agree that Red Lights had a lot going for it, and it still screwed up.
The movie is about two paranormal investigators Margaret Matheson and Tom Buckley (played by Weaver and Murphy respectively). Their whole job at a University is to go around debunking paranormal events, and teaching a class on the subject. Margaret being the main professor and Tom being her assistant (who is also physicist). They have never found a case that pointed to something supernatural. However, they have never been able to disprove that an illusionist named Simon Silver (De Niro) has supernatural powers. His character is very reminiscent of Uri Geller to the point where Simon Silver is known for spoon bending. Elizabeth Olsen plays Buckley's love interest and is basically a throwaway character. Toby Jones plays an associate professor who is also needless to the story.
So what worked? For the most part, the actors are the only thing keeping me from hating this movie. Weaver and Murphy give their best and even though Robert De Niro overacts to a degree, you accept it. The only weak link acting wise is a student towards the end, who is watching a bunch of recorded psychic sessions. They gave him too much dialogue and his acting is atrocious. Director/writer Rodrigo Cortes is good at setting up atmosphere. Atmosphere is really well done in this movie.
What went wrong? I mentioned the script, and that is really its only major problem, but it's a big one. The first 45 to 60 mins of the film really isn't bad, in fact I was wondering why this movie was getting hammered by critics. However once you reach that hour mark, the tone doesn't change, but the film just gets boring. One of the greatest movie sins you can commit is boredom. The reason it is boring is because you literally don't care about any of the characters, and you don't care because you do not understand why they are so driven to prove that Simon Silver is a fraud. It is beyond ridiculous how they try to catch him in one of his magic tricks so they could have him arrested. First off this isn't 1903, the police wouldn't be involved in trying to prove that a showman is in fact doing a show, unless he is scamming money from his audience. But even then, it wouldn't be to the degree shown in the film. The term "red lights" refers to things that seem out of a place during a show or scam that could be part of the act. And while that is a catchy title, it is a stretch to try to relate that term to what is eventually revealed in the story. The story almost seems dependent on the twist, so when it is actually revealed, I couldn't help but to think to myself, "really? I actually thought of a better twist earlier." Though I didn't think of the twist exactly, my mind did go there after a few clues. However I decided against it because it would make the whole story seem pointless. But they went there. The one thing I will say for the twist is that it makes a really good pitch for a story. In fact in another writer's hands I think this story could have been really good, because at its core Red Lights actually has a good concept. Unfortunately, that is all it has.
4/10 - Decent acting, and direction but script falters to complete silliness. One could even argue that the plot itself takes place in some alternate universe because in what world would these people react this way . Even for a Shyamalan twist, while it doesn't feel like it came from no where. It makes the rest of the movie seem pointless and by then you are either too bored to care or you have connected the dots long ago and thought to yourself "really? That's the best 'aha' moment you could think of?" I will give credit to the actors for playing the material seriously despite a few hammy moments, but even they can't save this story line.