[Movie Review] Mirrors

Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Amy Smart

Director: Alexandre Aja

Genre: Horror

Cert: 15

Released: 2008

I don’t know the reason for Kiefer Sutherland’s fairly low-profile cinema career in the last decade.  Since “24” launched in 2001 only “Phone Booth” and “The Sentinel” have showed up on my radar and much of his earnings outside of his smash TV series seem to come from voice acting in the likes of “The Land Before Time X” (Ten? Really??), “The Wild” and “Dragonlance”.  Perhaps he is too busy to throw himself in to a major movie role but with “24” possibly finishing up this year we may see more frequent big screen appearances from Sutherland again.

This is my roundabout way of saying that it’s good to see him back on screen in “Mirrors”, a high-concept, psychological horror movie that’s loosely based on Korean horror, “Into the Mirror“.  “The Hills Have Eyes” director Alexandre Aja – who is behind the camera – largely re-wrote the original script for the Hollywood adaptation.

Ben Carson (Sutherland) is an NYPD cop, suspended for an unspecified incident in which he shot someone dead.  He’s hit hard times; estranged from his wife Amy (Patton) and kids, living with his sister Angela (Smart) and trying to stay sober.

To help him try to get his life back together he gets a new job as a security guard at a former department store, the Mayflower, that was burnt down years previous.  During his first few nights he experiences strange occurrences – hand prints on the mirrors, a cracking mirror that seems to repair itself after causing a laceration on his hand, visions of screaming, burning bodies, and a vivid hallucination where Ben himself has caught fire.

When he receives a package from the Mayflower’s former security guard – a man we’ve seen killed in the movie’s opening scenes and whose wallet Ben found – he begins to believe that there is more to the events than hallucination. Although his wife thinks that his prescribed drugs are causing the visions, Ben realises that the presence in the mirrors is following him and might even endanger his family’s lives.

Not having seen “The Hills Have Eyes” I can’t comment on director Alexandre Aja’s previous work but online forums and blogs hold him in high esteem.  I can see why on the basis of “Mirrors”, a visually impressive film which makes the most of its inventive concept.  The idea of the menace lurking in a reflection lends itself to some striking scenes none more so than the opening salvo and latter scenes involving Ben’s family.

Smart and Patton don’t have too much to get their teeth in to but that’s okay as the movie is really all about Sutherland.  He brings a vulnerable intensity to the role, portraying a man battling his own demons as well as encountering ones that he really has no business with.  Tension is built through a combination of Sutherland’s driven but demented character and Aja’s stylish techniques.

The movie is hampered by a lumbering plot line that seems to outstay its welcome during an over-long second act, a hangover that is then felt in the final part.  Ben’s investigation to uncover the source of the evil that inhabits the mirrors irks a little and so it’s with a feeling of near-exhaustion that you face the final act of the film.

In spite of this Aja has banked enough credit up till this point and has sufficient tricks up his sleeve to rescue the story.  This could become an interesting little franchise if the second movie does some business.

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[Movie Review] The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect

Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Melora Walters, Elden Henson, William Lee Scott, Eric Stoltz
Directors: Eric Bress, J Mackye Gruber
Genre: Sci-Fi
Cert: 15
Released: 2004

Ever wondered what you would do if you had the power to change the past? Imagine you could change that thing you said that upset your mother or perhaps take a different route to work that would have seen you avoid an accident. Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber (possibly attempting to erase the memory of co-writing “Final Destination 2”) bring us “The Butterfly Effect”, a film where that very opportunity is afforded to Evan Treborn.

Although the movie begins with an adult Evan (Kutcher) somewhat panicking, stuffing himself under a desk, we immediately roll back thirteen years to his childhood. Evan’s father is in a mental institution, so he lives with his mother (Walters) in quintessential middle-America. As you might guess, all is not well. Evan endures blackouts at times of emotional stress and there’s an indication that he may suffer from the same illness that has led to the hospitalisation of his father.

Back to present day and Evan is in college, sharing a room with obese, sex-crazy gothic Thumper (Suplee). He’s a psychology student who is now seven years without a blackout, keeping track of his life via a series of journals that he has kept since he was seven. But things go wrong for Evan when he accidentally discovers that he has the ability to revisit the memories that have been blacked out, enabling him to actually change the events that took place. He decides to try and do this for the greater good but discovers that everything he does has an effect on everyone else too. Consumed by the desire to ‘get it right’ and make everyone happy, Evan continuously returns to his past memories. The only problem is that getting it right second, third or fourth time is no easier than it was the first time.

“The Butterfly Effect” is one of those movie scripts that has occurred out of someone’s desire to write something original. Okay so traveling to the past and changing it is not an original idea, but kudos to Gruber and Bress who have certainly put a fresh coating on the art of time-travel. However, the execution of the movie is another thing altogether. Evan’s “mind-travel” reminds me of the closing scenes of “Wayne’s World” where Wayne and Garth perform a series of ludicrous endings to give their audience value for money. Something doesn’t quite work. Perhaps it’s the (brave/stupid – delete as applicable) casting of career jester Kutcher in the lead role or just the director’s slapdash eagerness to find some sort of ‘x’ factor that might turn “The Butterfly Effect” in to an A-grade cult classic.

Kutcher is actually not that bad, well certainly not the botch that I expected his performance to be. But I still wonder what Jake Gyllenhaal was doing that he wasn’t pursued for the role.

It’s not a car crash by any means, but it is an unbridled mess at times. Strange then that it somehow remains somewhat captivating and hard to stop watching.

3halfstar