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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Stephen Hopkins|
scr Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes
with Hilary Swank, David Morrissey, Idris Elba, AnnaSophia Robb, Stephen Rea, William Ragsdale, John McConnell, David Jensen, Andrea Frankle, Yvonne Landry, Mark Lynch, Sabrina A Junius
release US 5.Apr.07, UK 20.Apr.07
07/US Warner 1h39
Up a lazy river: Elba and Swank
Starting as an intriguing faith-themed thriller, this film quickly descends into gonzo nuttiness. Yet even as it gets increasingly contrived, it's still entertaining as an over-the-top guilty pleasure.
Katherine Winter (Swank) was a missionary in Africa who lost her faith after the death of her husband and daughter. Now she travels the world debunking miracles with her sidekick Ben (Elba). And she's on a 48-for-48 streak when she visits isolated Haven, Louisiana, where Dakota Fanning--I mean, the young Loren (Robb) seems to be summoning the 10 biblical plagues. The local science teacher (Morrissey) he has no answers, while Katherine's former mentor-priest (Rea) is babbling about hellfire and brimstone. Maybe Katherine still has some faith after all.
The film's opening third is fascinating, as it poses questions about religion and belief, sets up eerie parallels between Katherine's past and present, and soaks up the sinister bayou atmosphere. Hopkins is a good enough director to keep us unsettled and curious, while we await the next twist or jolt. So when things start getting well and truly unhinged, we're willing to go with it to a point. But as the story begins to unravel into silliness, we're more likely to laugh than jump.
Swank gives yet another fully committed performance, convincing us that Katherine believes all of this even if we don't. Elba is a terrific presence at her side throughout the story, while Morrissey slithers dully as a charming but suspicious Southern gent. Meanwhile, Robb is superb as the satanic girl with the fiery eyes who causes all the trouble. Even as the film collapses around them, the cast continue to charge forward, almost holding us with them as they go.
It helps that Hopkins so shamelessly lays on the gothic touches--lush shadows, jangling windchimes, lightning storms, mystical ruins, Bible-belt attitudes, bizarre flashbacks and overtones from both The Stepford Wives and Don't Look Now. Not to mention the blood river, frogs, flies, lice, dead livestock, boils, locusts, darkness, fire and death. (The locusts are especially fabulous.) And we can't help but cheer on the barmy wrath-of-God climactic purge. You go girl!
|Ann, Central CA: "I thought the movie was quite entertaining - thought provoking for sure! Would anyone happen to know the name of those hauntingly sounding windchimes? I cannot remember the name of the stone." (24.Apr.07)|
© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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