They Mean, “Don’t Go”

07/11/2012 4:00 AM |

Red Lights
Directed by Rodrigo Cortes

The latest from the director of Buried wants to be an amazing, far-out horror-mystery like Angel Heart—right down to its small-but-crucial part for Robert DeNiro—but it’s campy bananas instead. Cillian Murphy and Sigourney Weaver star as paranormal investigators who expose frauds and debunk tech-savvy charlatans when not teaching their college class in Magic’s Biggest Secrets Revealed. But strange events suggest that maybe these skeptics are wrong! Could the answers lie with America’s most famous, possibly legit psychic (DeNiro), who happens to be coming out of reclusion after several decades?

Red Lights is super-serious and strange: it nearly climaxes with a newsreel-like detailing of laboratory experiments; it takes place in an alternate universe in which faith healers and their critics generate front-page, top-of-the-fold headlines. It isn’t subtle, either. Writer-director Cortes makes the characters outline and underline the themes—”I’m not prepared to let my desires determine my beliefs” is one such example (of many!)—while he pushes Murphy to go to Nicolas Cage-level realms of excess and madness. There’s method to that last thing, at least; many freak-outs and theme-identifying speeches later, there’s a twist ending that makes sense of some of the earlier ridiculousness. Even so, that’s a cheap way to tell a story—and just one of the many that Cortes employs.

Opens July 13 at the AMC Empire 25