If you’ve learned anything by way of going to the local cineplex in the last five years, it’s that there are far, far too many paranormal movies out there. Add Red Lights to that list, the overly ambitious and overly-stuck-in-overdrive new movie from director Rodrigo Cortes which stars Robert De Niro, Sigourney Weaver, and Cillian Murphy.
The first hour is fairly well-done, I will give it that. But once the set up is officially over and the plot moves to the inevitable showdown between expert (Weaver) and adversary (De Niro), it really starts to fall apart into an incoherent mess that literally began to make me feel like I needed an oxygen mask just to make it to the end. I know this is supposed to be a thriller, but once your audience starts to feel like the movie is physically consuming them, you know something has gone terribly, awfully wrong. Just ask M. Knight Shyamalan.
Here is as brief and lucid a synopsis as I can provide: two researchers (played by Weaver and Murphy) whose business and expertise it is to prove that all supernatural occurrences are really just cleverly crafted stagings and tricks (or “red lights”) are out to take down the infamous psychic Simon Silver (De Niro) who has just come out of retirement. Of course, something ends up going horribly wrong, flying in the face of all their research, and compelling them to question the basis of all their “red light” knowledge. Who is right and who is the real fraud? Oh, the suspense. And oh, the convolution.
The fatal flaw with the movie is that it presents a lot of set up to the problem at hand and then goes straight into resolution. There’s no build-up, no development. It’s kind of like Crash in that sense: here’s the problem . . . oh, and here’s the solution. Never mind all the subtle, contextual things you really should know about before you can even claim to even half understand the issue at hand. We’ll just skip that so that the studio can have its tidy running time.
Murphy is on top of the cast here, followed close behind by Weaver and Elizabeth Olsen (who plays one of his students). But De Niro is so over the top sometimes you wonder if he thought he was auditioning for a part rejected by Christof Waltz. Less is more, Robby, which sadly should have also been the mantra of the movie.