Red Lights

Fri, Jun 15, 2012, 01:00

Directed by Rodrigo Cortés. Starring Robert De Niro, Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy, Joely Richardson, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones 15A cert, gen release, 112 min

You will struggle to name a more disciplined thriller than Rodrigo Cortés’s terrific Buried. Focusing on one man detained in a coffin, the picture argued strongly for the virtues of narrative simplicity.

What has come over the man? Cortés’s unhinged follow-up, though blessed with a few chilling scenes, could not seem more disordered if it had been constructed using William S Burroughs’s cut-up technique. It begins in reasonably sensible fashion before descending into a morass of wild plot turns that betray both the characters and the audience. If the film did not have such a classy cast, it would surely have progressed straight to DVD.

You will be familiar with Robert De Niro. He is the strange man who, once rigorously selective, now only appears in films that feed in the bottom trench of fetid canals. Red Lights sees him playing a slightly tweaked version of Uri Geller. Long retired, the pop mystic – and, yes, spoon-bender – is returning for a comeback tour. But a group of debunkers, headed by bright-spark Cillian Murphy and wise boffin Sigourney Weaver, are lurking in the wings ready to reveal his secrets.

Dr Weaver is, at first, not too keen on tackling this high-profile target. But Murphy will not stop until he is properly embarrassed.

It’s a decent scenario. The opening hour plays out at a sane, carefully measured pace. Cillian and Sigourney (there’s a couple of dynamite forenames) do good work as the sceptics and De Niro has fun exercising his inner Vincent Price.

Then it all teeters into the wrong kind of madness. One gets the impression that, having worked hard to set up a promising third act, everyone realised they were about to miss their planes and spent five minutes improvising a hurried, illogical dénouement before rushing to the shuttle bus. A serious disappointment.