The Gift

"Weak"

The Gift Review


Warning: This review begins with a wildly off-subject tangent.

O, woe! What hope can we have for director Sam Raimi's 2002 "Spider-Man" movie now that he has made two utterly conventional Hollywood flicks in a row?

Once a tongue-in-cheek sovereign of campy cult classics like "Evil Dead 2," "Darkman" and "The Quick and the Dead" -- not to mention the producer of TV's uber-campy "Xena" -- Raimi went straight two years ago with the chilling psychological thriller "A Simple Plan." Then last year he went soft with "For Love of the Game," a middling, maudlin baseball romance starring Kevin Costner.

Raimi's new movie is "The Gift," a disappointingly predictable psychic whodunit with a script so pedestrian it feels like an albatross around the necks of its marquee pedigree players.

The cinematically dexterous Cate Blanchett ("Elizabeth," "The Talented Mr. Ripley") stars as Anne Wilson, a widowed Louisiana swamp mama with an extrasensory gift she uses to scrape together a living in her redneck town by reading fortunes.

She has a few believers -- like an emotionally disturbed local mechanic (Giovanni Ribisi) and a battered housewife (Hilary Swank), who turn to Anne as a confessor and counselor when the horror of their lives overwhelms them.

But she also has quite a few noisy detractors who like to accuse her of witchcraft. One of them is Swank's horrifyingly violent husband (Keanu Reeves), who begins terrorizing Anne and threatening her kids when he catches his wife having her cards read.

The plot, however, centers on Anne's supernatural assistance in a murder investigation after the disappearance of a sexy young Jezebel of a socialite (Katie Holmes) who had been engaged to the local elementary school principal (Greg Kinnear).

Haunted by grisly visions of the dead girl, Anne eventually leads the sheriff to the body, dumped in a pond on Reeves' property. Her testimony helps put him behind bars. But when the girl's ghost doesn't rest, Anne realizes the killer is still out there and she puts herself in danger by conspicuously digging deeper into the crime.

"The Gift" is blessed with truly gripping performances of realistically disturbed characters. The acting is most definitely not the problem.

Blanchett is so powerfully convincing as a telepath that her tormented emotional state seems to cause the film running through the projector to shudder in empathy. Swank (last year's Oscar winner for "Boys Don't Cry"), sporting the best trailer trash mullet hair-do in cinema history, is staggering in her trapped-animal role as the black-and-blue wife who sees no escape from her horrifying husband.Even Keanu Reeves -- he of the wooden "Whoa!" -- gives what has to be the best performance of his career as Swank's monstrous spouse. I honestly felt like he might jump off the screen at any moment and beat me to a bloody pulp.

No, the problem isn't the acting. The problem is the story (written by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson), which is riddled with logical loopholes and patched together with gimmicks so blatant that with a smaller caliber cast, this movie would have been lucky to land on the USA network.Before the plot even begins in earnest, several hackneyed spook movie conventions kick in -- like the wind that blows eerily through Blanchett's hair every time she has a vision -- signaling a serious lack of creativity.

What's worse is that despite Blanchett's best efforts, by the picture's halfway mark, Anne has begun to look like such a certifiable idiot that the viewer can't help but second-guess her every move.

You don't have to be a psychic to figure out that you're asking for trouble by running around telling all the former suspects in a murder that you think the killer is still on the loose. And how dumb do you have to be to go back to the pond with one of them...alone...at night...in the rain?

Raimi does maintain a tense, spine-tingling aura throughout the movie. But that and the acting by themselves are not enough to forgive this film's wholesale predictability, its trite plot devices nor its insipid, miracle rescue finale.

Sam Raimi was never a remarkable director, but he didn't used to take himself so seriously without cause. The fact that he has -- with a straight face -- made a paranormal movie as mundane as "The Gift" has robbed me of my ability to get excited about a movie just because he's behind the wheel. And that just makes me sad.



The Gift

Facts and Figures

Run time: 111 mins

In Theaters: Friday 19th January 2001

Box Office USA: $11.2M

Box Office Worldwide: $12M

Budget: $10M

Distributed by: Paramount Classics

Production compaines: Lakeshore Entertainment, Alphaville Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 57%
Fresh: 67 Rotten: 51

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Annie Wilson, as Buddy Cole, as Donnie Barksdale, as Jessica King, as Wayne Collins, as Valerie Barksdale, as David Duncan, as Annie's Granny, J.K. Simmons as Sheriff Pearl Johnson, as Kenneth King, David Brannen as Ben Wilson, as Gerald Weems, as Linda, as Albert Hawkins, Lynnsee Provence as Mike Wilson, Hunter McGilvray as Miller Wilson

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

Advertisement
City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Free Fire Movie Review

Free Fire Movie Review

Basically a 90-minute shoot-out, there isn't a lot to this movie. British filmmaker Ben Wheatley...

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.