red-lights-RedLights_FinalPoster_rgbWhat’s it all about?

IMDb says:

Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic who has resurfaced years after his toughest critic mysteriously passed away.

Except it doesn’t actually because Sigourney Weaver’s assistant, Cillian Murphy (for it is indeed he) wants to investigate and she doesn’t because of a previous experience with said psychic, and the description really does play down Murphy’s role quite considerably, but more of that anon.

Why did I want to watch this?

That is a very good question. We saw the trailer in the cinema several times and thought it looked like it might be interesting and there is always that playing roulette feeling about any film that Robert De Niro is in these days – will he be brilliant or will he be in Meet the Parents mode? (Full disclosure: I did not like that film at all)

What did I think of it?

Red Lights is utter tosh but also weirdly enjoyable. Absolutely not the worst film ever made (my benchmark for that is The Road to Wellville, the only film which I have ever considered getting up and walking out of – twenty years later and I still have flashbacks) but I agree with the Book God’s view that he was glad we hadn’t actually parted with any money to see this at the local multiplex.

So the set up is very cool, Sigourney and Cillian show off their spotting the fake psychic skills and the tussle with Toby Jones is well done, but then De Niro turns up and it all goes a wee bit hysterical.

Then they do the thing to Sigourney that they seem to do a lot of these days and the focus shifts very much to Cillian who becomes even more tortured and driven, if that’s at all possible. Elizabeth Olsen looks pretty in a supportive-but-I’m-really-worried-about-you-and-don’t-you-leave-me-alone-during-the-creepy-stuff way (but at least she isn’t kidnapped to give him a reason to act, which is a blessing).

The main problem with the film for me is (sadly) De Niro. He’s just too big for the part. Earlier in the film we have a shouty fake psychic and we really don’t need to have another one, and maybe shout is the wrong word but he declaims a lot and would have been more effective I think if he had been quieter to show why he might be different. Perhaps a less well-known and less showy actor would have grounded the film better. I think I also prefer Cillian as a villain (see Red Eye – what’s with the red thing?) though his slightly otherworldly look does work here.

The denouement is interesting. A couple of other reviewers have said they saw it coming a mile off and that effectively if you didn’t spot it you’re an idiot. Well, I’m happy to be called an idiot because I came up with every permutation I could think of except for the actual explanation, which I rather liked and lifted the film after a very angsty middle act. Though De Niro’s secret was dead obvious if you had been watching closely at the beginning.

Verdict? Wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it again but it passed a Sunday evening very pleasantly.