Huckster’s Paradise

Published November 11, 2012 by vfdpixie


Red Lights (2012, 1 hr 53 mins)

Sigourney Weaver plays Dr. Margaret Matheson, a psychologist and professor who teaches others to disprove the paranormal phenomenon.  She is a sharp shooting, no-nonsense scholar who does not suffer fools.  Her trusty assistant professor, physicist Tom Buckley played by Cillian Murphy, is always at hand.  Together, they slay charlatans left and right.  Enter Robert De Niro as Simon Silver, a world-renowned and blind psychic, who comes out of decades of seclusion after the scandalous and ill-timed death of his top critic.  Many believed his supernatural  abilities were behind the death, and this is brought up and sensationalized as Silver readies himself for a series of sold out appearances.

Matheson and Buckley both champ at the bit to debunk Silver, because to them, he is the father of all hucksters. After catching one of Silver’s disciples in a full on side-show act, they turn their sights on the big fish  They also have personal vendettas against all things clairvoyant.  Margaret has a son on life support, and a past encounter with Silver where he claimed to see her son’s spirit solidifies her hate for him and anyone claiming to be psychic.  Buckley’s mother narrowly survives stomach cancer even though a psychic told her it was nothing to worry about. Silver agrees to a series of scientific testing to show he is legit, from mind reading to spoon bending (although I think the spoons were just happy to see him).  A battle of wills ensues, with mysterious, dead air phone calls, birds flying into windows and lights constantly a flicker.

Unfortunately, Margaret never sees the results of the testing.  She too falls victim to a suspiciously untimely death.  This kind of annoyed me, because I loved how Sigourney played this character.  You could really see her suppressing her beliefs with logic.  Almost afraid to believe, she champions facts instead of faith because all her hopes were dashed with her son’s illness.  With Margaret gone, Buckley now has a personal score to settle with Silver, and is determined to prove him a fake.

I love that this film was shot here in Toronto, my home town.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see my long-time friend, actor and pro athlete Ray Olubowale, with a small role.  He just keeps popping up when I least expect it.  When Buckley tracks Silver down to a mysterious, run-down building, he is questioned by Ray, a security guard packing some serious muscle.  Buckley scurries away as he gets the signature, Big Ray stink-eye.  Love it!

The director, Rodrigo Cortes also did Buried, which I hated.  Can’t stand that Reynolds boy.  Ick.  All I could think was “Die already!!”  This movie however, wasn’t bad.  I think it got panned because some of the plot wasn’t so obvious, but I felt that was the whole point.  There is an underlying theme of not seeing the forest for the trees; missing the sleight of hand.  This leads to an interesting twist to the climax of the film, one that some of us may catch if we pay attention to some pretty obvious hints earlier on.  I kind of wish there was more background to Silver’s character, but that might have given too much of the plot away.  De Niro is good, but I find it difficult to see him as anything else but a gangster.   I also liked Cillian Murphy as the nerdy, behind the scenes foil to Weaver.  He steps up to the plate to avenge his colleague’s death, and shows us the value of trusting yourself and your instincts when logic doesn’t cover all the answers.

Most Memorable Line: “When I hear the drumming of hooves, I don’t think unicorns, I think horses.”  Dr. Matheson’s simple description of Occam’s Razor (the law of succinctness.  Look it up-I did!)

Favorite Scene:  It’s a toss-up yet again. First comes the scene where Buckley jumps a weird line of devotees to see psychic Silver, and one of them hisses at him. Then there’s the psychic surgery performed by Silver live on stage.  It’s a chicken liver and fake blood people!  Oldest trick in the book!  Wanna buy some snake oil too?

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