Rodrigo Cortés ‘Red Lights’ movie wants to be a mind tripper in the vein of ‘Inception‘, but it only makes you realize what that film would have been like in the hands of M. Night Shyamalan. This film needs some reshoots and major editing if it wants a US theatrical release.
Christopher Nolan is that rare director who can work on either a shoestring ‘Memento’ type budget or a humongous ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ kind, but sadly Rodrigo Cortes isn’t. I absolutely loved ‘Buried‘ which premiered to major buzz at the Sundance Film Festival two years ago, and that was a tiny budget that showed this guy knew how to make so little go a long way. Now, with ‘Red Lights‘, he had a much larger budget ($15-$17 million), and it feels like he just didn’t know what to do with it and the film suffers. Actors like Robert DeNiro, Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy would have no issue working on a smaller film, and I wonder if it would have made it better for Robert Cortes. As it stands, ‘Red Lights‘ feels like a film trying to be ‘Inception‘ without the cleverness or satisfying conclusion.
‘Red Lights’ is not an awful movie, and it starts out with some great promise and genuine scares. I think because ‘Buried’ literally was a knuckle gripper, I was expecting the same from Cortes. Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) and Dr. Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) are rational academics who can debunk paranormal phenomena like no ones business. Using science and logic, these two can turn a ghost or creepy shadowy figure into something tangible. This is what is known as ‘red lights’ or obviouss behavior con artists use to dupe their marks. Matheson is able to easily dispence with any psychic except one, of course, in the form of Robert DeNiro, who goes extremely broad in this role.
All of these actors know how to handle these roles easily, but Cortes throws in some very odd plot turns that just makes you lose your suspension of disbelieve and plot holes that you expect from M. Night Shyamalan but not Cortes. This is what makes the film such a letdown after a rather promising start. These characters don’t believe in small talk; they seem to enjoy hearing themselves talk, and in turn, we suffer for that.
‘Red Lights’ excels when it focuses on showing the tricks behind psychics, much like how Christopher Nolan showed in ‘The Prestige’, but it feels like Cortes doesn’t have his characters figured out so when he tries to flesh them out, the movie just falls apart. Some of the scares feel like a way to distract us during those brutally long speeches, and you’ll notice many plot points that are hit on but never are fulfilled. At 119 minutes, you know you’ve spent a couple hours hoping and praying that something will eventually make sense, but sadly, once your disbelief is vanquished, this movie falls apart and never comes back.
Cortés writes that the film is a “Gordian knot” and “an enigma” where “You think you are standing on solid ground, and then suddenly the earth opens up under your feet,” but the only feeling of earth opening when so many buyers were heading out the door after only 45 minutes of this one. If a distributor picks this one up, they’ve got some major overhauling, along with hoping that Cortes also realizes it too. There’s a good film in there, but it’s just blocked by way too much talking about nothing and an unclear storyline.
Best Movies Ever News Rating: D
Rodrigo Cortés ‘Red Lights’ needs some major shearing and cutting down to keep audiences interest. He’s pulled together a stellar cast who knows how to tackle these parts, but they need a director who understands his characters much better. This is one film that feels like a bigger budget made a great indie filmmaker feel out of his depth. I failed to mention Elizabeth Olsen in this review as it feels like she just stepped into the movie unbeknownst to her cast members.