Red Lights stars Cillian Murphy but the new non-thriller only dimly flickers
The new movie, ‘Red Lights’ written and directed by Rodrigo Cortes stars Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Toby Jones, Elizabeth Olsen and Joely Richardson. With a powerful cast like that one expects better. The problem isn’t with the acting, though. It’s the writing that falls down.
The synopsis is intriguing: Dr. Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and her team partner, Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy), are investigators of paranormal phenomena. They work in an underfunded university withToby Jones who plays a rival for the limited funds. Non-believers of hocus-pocus, Matheson and Buckley are in passionate pursuit of exposing all the quackery they can. Thanks to these dynamic faith busters, and their high tech equipment, shysters get nabbed and arrested which is satisfying and compelling for the audience.
Cortes devoted more than a year to studying paranormal phenomena. The writer said, “I attended séances and channeling sessions and talked to many so-called paragnosts and gifted psychics. I wanted the movie to feel scientific. A lot of the high-tech equipment used in the film exists in real life.”
The movie moves along fine during its first half, albeit slowly, and it seems that maybe, just maybe, this won’t be one more film about doubters who are turned into believers after being overtaken by too many things that went bump in the night.
Sadly, Elizabeth Olsen’s talent is wasted in her bit part as Murphy’s student slash love interest. Joely Richardson‘s character is merely arm candy to the celebrated Uri Geller-ish blind guy named Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) who mysteriously emerges out of a 30-year retirement. By challenging their convictions, Silver throws our scientists’ reality-based world out of whack. Matheson makes it clear to Buckley that Simon is dangerous (by saying, “He’s dangerous”). Creepy music in the background lets you know, like soap operas do, that you’re supposed to be scared even though the dialogue and premise become ever more ridiculous and campy.
‘Red Lights’ ends with an unexpected twist that is so aggravating it lessens the impact of the few things the film had going for it.
Running time: 113 minutes, Rated R for language and some violence. Opens in limited release July 13.
Written for the Examiner