Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés had audiences eating out of the palm of his hand back in 2010, when he trapped Ryan Reynolds in a coffin for 90 minutes in Buried. However, his second English-language film leaves too much to the imagination and is an ill-conceived affair.
Dr Margaret Matheson (Weaver), a psychologist, and her physicist colleague, Tom Buckley (Murphy), are two professional sceptics that specialise in debunking paranormal activity. Through the power of science rather than the supernatural the pair lift the lid on ghost-whispering con artists and bogus spiritualists.
After a mysterious 30-year absence, Simon Silver (De Niro), a self-important, world-famous blind psychic, returns to the stage. Determined to discredit Silver, Buckley and his star student and love interest, Sally (Olsen), use every means available to expose the spoon-bending mind reader as a fraud. However, Buckley is forced to reconsider his own beliefs when he becomes dangerously obsessed with the unknown.
The first half starts promisingly, with enough thrills to keep the viewer engaged – a séance, creaking doors, shattering lights, random phone calls, and suicidal crows. However, the second half of the movie loses all credibility as Cortés takes the audience down a series of open-ended avenues, while failing to deliver any worthwhile answers.
On several occasions, he introduces viewers to storylines but quickly abandons them. For example, we find out that there is a history between Margaret and Simon involving her comatose son, but this subplot is never properly explored or explained.
Weaver’s role as the veteran ghostbuster is initially believable but quickly becomes exhausting. The character clearly has an interesting past but her cynicism and mysterious ways fail to deliver an explanation. The muddled script prevents Elizabeth Olsen’s character from developing, and by the time the end credits roll she is all but forgotten.
The usually on-form Cillian Murphy is swamped by the disconnected storylines, making it difficult for him to become the hero viewers deserve. Robert De Niro injects some flavour into the movie and just about keeps it moving along, but the far-fetched twists let him down.
At nearly two hours, this psychological thriller takes far too long to disclose its secrets. When the double twist at the climax is finally revealed it proves to be extremely disappointing.
While Red Lights won’t have you levitating out of your seat, it will certainly have you making hastily for the door.