With reviews of Red Lights seemingly very bad (32 out of 100 on Metacritic), I started wondering what could possibly go wrong with a movie that stars Cillian Murphy, Robert De Niro, and Sigourney Weaver and is directed by Rodrigo Cortés who brought us the acclaimed Buried. The trailer looks promising enough, and it’s always nice to see charlatans robbing innocent soft-heads on a national scale being put to justice. But my hopes were crushed brutally by this movie, and below is why.
The plot revolves around a couple of skeptics, Dr. Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy), bringing the simple machinations of so-called “healers” to light and teaching their devoted students to debunk deceitful mystics in a Ghostbusters crash-course. Turns out ¾ of Americans have had experiences that couldn’t be explained by conventional science (this is Red Lights statistics, FYI), so the multiple “magicians” who use “red lights” to convince the public of their powers aren’t in danger of going broke any time soon.
When blind psychic Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) restarts his career 30 years after his most vocal critic dies at his show, weird things start happening to Margaret and Tom. Tragedy occurs, so Tom and his young student (Elizabeth Olsen) embark on a dangerous journey to discover the tricks behind Silver’s miracles, a quest that reveals something else entirely – but it is not a hook to go see the movie, believe me, if anything else, it is a warning, and I repeat: the quest reveals something else entirely in the most eye-rolling WTF moment of 2012.
For viewers who have had no experience with fake psychics (like family members ignoring the voice of reason and turning to alternative help for disastrous results), the movie may ring really false. But for me, the human factor is be the most interesting to explore it all: why are there so many folks believing in this bull and what should we do about it? But Red Lights is obviously not interested in psychology; it doesn’t even have a single “believer” character examined for a different perspective on the subject; its sole focus is on the hocus-pocus of the miracle-erupting all-seers – and this one-dimensionality is really disappointing.
Robert De Niro continues getting into films we wish we could erase off his filmography. He is just there being Mr. De Niro. Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy have green complexions most of the time (this is the darkest film I’ve seen in a long time). Mr. Murphy’s piercing blue eyes and the intertextual shadow of 28 Days Later on his carefully sculptured cheekbones somewhat redeem the fake drama and the weak script; the fan-boys and -girls of the actor will delight in his presence. But that’s all I can say in the movie’s favor.
After reading Red Lights reviews mentioning the grand plot twist at the end of the movie, I began a guessing game with myself to figure out what the twist could possibly be. I thought, “Aha, this could be the wackiest stupidest thing ever, negating everything that came before and leaving it up in the air, just for the thrill of the last few minutes.” And yes, what I dreaded most is indeed the ending; so I would suggest to anyone who wants to enjoy Red Lights as a mediocre thriller at the very least, to leave five minutes before the titles roll – you will feel much better for it.
Verdict: Waste of time unless you are fan of Cillian Murphy.