Okay, it's an M. Night Shyamalan story/production, but he didn't write the final script, direct the film or (as far as I could tell) cameo in it. They hid it from the critics, and I went in expecting the worst but willing to give DEVIL a chance--I certainly have no objection to "five characters in search of an exit" claustro-thrillers, and as you might remember, I had my own "things happen for a reason" experience just last week.And DEVIL--while certainly not perfect--turned out to not be terrible, either.You all know the premise--five assorted characters are trapped in an office elevator, and we eventually learn that one of them has got to be the Devil in disguise. What you don't see in the trailers is the homicide detective (Chris Messina) who brings his own baggage to the case when he gets the call--he's actually the main character.John Erick Dowdle is the director in this case--he's the guy who basically redid REC shot for shot in English and called it QUARANTINE... so how does he do when he's on his own? Not bad at all... he's especially effective when it comes to vertigo-inducing skyscraper photography: the upside-down opening credit sequence is quite the thing, and there's also a terrific shot where a mechanic's cap blows off his head and sails over the edge of the building...The trapped characters work well together and there are some truly intense moments here and there--but you can tell how the film deliberately pulls back from the most shocking material.I didn't bother trying to figure out the ending in advance, and it wouldn't have made much of a difference if I had... it will suffice to say that the film is "really" about themes and issues rehashed from Shyamalan's own SIGNS and the superior Christian Bale thriller THE MACHINIST... who the Devil "is" doesn't even matter in the end. I wish I could say that the film paid off with an insanely intense, riveting final ten minutes, but I can't--there's too much distraction from superfluous characters and from the fact that the cop is trying to solve this as a "real" crime conspiracy... since we KNOW that the solution really will be supernatural, the detective work is less than fascinating (though it does help flesh out the characters a bit).It's not great, but it's certainly not the stinker you might have heard it was, either--and frankly, I'll take this over a high-tech, 3-D MATRIX rehash any day of the week (cough cough RESIDENT EVIL cough cough)...
I was looking forward to this film for several reasons... First and foremost, the RESIDENT EVIL series, while never approaching genuine "greatness," had always managed to keep me sufficiently intrigued to see what happened next. Second, I've always liked Milla Jovovich, and the focus on her continuing "Alice" character has kept the series from being a simple cloning of the Romero DEAD series (despite the obvious inspiration). And finally, I was quite interested to see what the return of original director Paul W.S. Anderson would supply--particularly as he was shooting in genuine 3-D (not a conversion job) for the first time.
Well, as it turns out, the 3-D is just about the ONLY saving grace of this fourth installment. Let me say this much--Anderson has never been what I would call an "innovator." Virtually all of his films to date have played as "cover versions" (if not out-and-out ripoffs) of previously established themes--which didn't stop me from enjoying them. I still think EVENT HORIZON represents his high point--even if you thought you might have "seen it before," it still provided strong, visceral horror deployed against a fine cast. And for similar reasons, I quite enjoyed DEATH RACE--there was absolutely nothing "new" there, and it certainly failed as a remake of DEATH RACE 2000, but the cast and the 100% authentic vehicle action still hit the spot and supplied fine entertainment, the likes of which I couldn't find in any other contemporary source.
Where last we left the RE saga (as handled by Russell Mulcahy), Ali Larter and her ragtag band were headed for the promised refuge of "Arcadia" while an army of Alice clones prepared to strike at the Umbrella Corporation's Tokyo headquarters. AFTERLIFE dispenses with the latter plot twist in the first fifteen minutes of the film. It's a promising opening--we get a terrific opening credit sequence followed by most of the action you saw in the trailer, and then we get a promising plot twist that robs Alice of her superpowers (though that scarcely seems evident).
Things stay reasonably okay as Alice checks out Arcadia for herself and runs into Larter again, but once the newly-reunited teammates hit the roof of an L.A. prison, it's unfortunately time for deadly dull "rehash" material for a long stretch. The utterly disposable (I mean that literally--they get killed off and the main players immediately stop caring about them) supporting characters are duly introduced as they re-enact the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake and start a pilgrimage to retrieve a super vehicle. We get interminable slow-motion fight sequences (with the obligatory bullet-dodging business... I swear that THE MATRIX still stands as the best film that I wish had never been made!!!), betrayals, alleged twists and that same clone of a sunglasses-wearing villain that does everything but snarl "MISTER Andersen..." at every turn. We get the Venus Flytrap mouths that were cool in BLADE II but scarcely beyond ("yeah, but it's in 3-D this time!" seems to be the excuse throughout). Oh, and when all of the surviving heroes think they're walking into a trap, they all step through and let the sliding metal doors close behind them anyway.
Okay. I did enjoy Alice's use of U.S. quarters as ammunition. And I REALLY liked the huge, executioner-hooded monstrosity that showed up with a gigantic war-hammer/battleaxe, but I guess that the video game players will have to tell me just what the hell it was and where it came from, because the movie sure didn't.
But that's about it. ONLY see this in 3-D. And prepare for yet another cliffhanger. I sure hope this one pays off. I don't hate this series and I don't want to hate this series... but this one is easily the least to date.
..Welcome back to the GRINDHOUSE!!!Hopefully, you've all seen the (formerly) faux trailer that preceded Robert Rodriguez's PLANET TERROR to kick off the GRINDHOUSE experience. Well, with the assistance of Ethan Maniquis, Rodriguez has finally gone back and made the film to back it up!Rodriguez serves up EVERYTHING promised in the trailer (Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, and most laudably, a dynamite lead role for Danny Trejo--about time... was his PREDATORS role a joke or something?), along with hilarious-to-stellar support from Steven Seagal, Robert DeNiro, Don Johnson (sorry... "INTRODUCING Don Johnson..."), Michelle Rodriguez, wall-to-wall splatter and ferocious attitude to spare.And then he had to go and put Jessica Alba in it.Sorry, folks. She doesn't KILL the film, but it's not through lack of trying. She's the same talentless eye candy that she's always been, and she's especially excruciating this time around. Michelle Rodriguez gives you MORE than enough to look at and has what it takes to back it UP, too, in case you were wondering where I was coming from.What? Lindsay Lohan? Hell, she's fine. She's a good sport who takes full advantage of her tabloid reputation (and that's before she gets the habit, as it were), and she doesn't even begin to weigh the film down.The action and the gore? Trust me--had this BEEN the '70s release the GRINDHOUSE trailer hinted at, it would have gotten the "X" it pretended to have. Just how long is the human intestine?And in the meantime, let's please not start in on the 'immigration' debate in the context of this review. Rodriguez isn't here to play "fair" with MACHETE--he's here to be as inflammatory as possible. How could you NOT make such a film and not have the caravan of low riders squaring off against the "good old boys?" This is NOT a film about rational debate--this is a film about rattling cages and splattering the screen from end to end... in that regards, it's damn near perfect.Except for that Jessica Alba.PLEASE make the sequels without her.Thank you.