Starring Cillian Murphy, Robert De Niro. Written and directed by Rodrigo Cortés. 14A. 114 min. Opens Aug. 10.
The latest feature by the Spanish filmmaker behind the crafty Ryan-Reynolds-in-a-box thriller, Buried, Red Lights begins as a big-screen variation on an X-Files episode before steadily becoming more bonkers. The trouble is, it never quite gets bonkers enough. Not even another hammy performance by the ever more embarrassing Robert De Niro can push Red Lights to the nutty extremes that the material demands.
Cillian Murphy and Sigourney Weaver play Tom and Margaret, a team of paranormal investigators who pride themselves on their ability to debunk any claim of psychic powers. Yet their confidence is shaken by the reappearance of Simon Silver (De Niro), a Uri Geller-like, spoon-bending celeb among ESP believers who had retired from public performance after the death of a skeptic who’d been investigating him. Strange occurrences fuel Tom’s obsession with Silver as the psychic’s latest tour inspires wide public interest.
Though the sombre early scenes develop a convincing air of unease, writer-director Rodrigo Cortés’ grip on the proceedings soon weakens. His relentless reliance on fake TV-news coverage as an exposition delivery device signals a worrying lack of confidence in his own hokum. For all of the mysteries the film purports to present, the most perplexing may be where this is all supposed to be taking place (the sudden shifts between Barcelona and Toronto locations keep things stubbornly ambiguous). Despite the few suggestions that Red Lights’ inherent madness might supersede its drab and clichéd methods, it’s finally undone by a twist ending that would earn a groan even from M. Night Shyamalan.