Spanish helmer Rodrigo Cortés may have bitten off more than he could chew for his follow-up to the much-talked Buried. Moving upwards into an attempt at a stylish adult chiller with a top-flight cast, the director helms confidently a genre exercise that is undeniably well done but comes off as cynical and soulless.

     For all intents and purposes, Red Lights appears to be an American production but is in fact an all-Spanish film except for the cast, and Mr. Cortés does quadruple duty as director, writer, editor and co-producer. He acquits himself very honourably in most of them, but ends up letting the side down at the end of what had, until then, been a reasonably assured and engrossing tale set in the world of psychic studies: the story of a university scientist (ever-reliable Cillian Murphy) and professional debunker of paranormal allegations who becomes obsessed with a recluse psychic (Robert de Niro) staging a comeback tour against his boss' (Sigourney Weaver) better judgment.

     It would all be good if Mr. Cortés showed himself able to resist misleading the viewer throughout, allowing the story to be undercut by a last-act twist that is evidently signposted but turns out to be fundamentally dishonest in the way it destroys the plausibility of everything that came before. Clearly, the idea was for Red Lights to follow on the footsteps of sleight-of-hand tales such as Christopher Nolan's The Prestige; instead, though, we get the infuriatingly overstretched filmmaking bravado of late-period Brian de Palma, wasting in the process both the director's impressively confident handling and a game cast whose supporting players are given practically nothing to do. Mr. Cortés remains a clearly talented director, but Red Lights seems a case of too much too fast.

Starring Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver; Robert de Niro; Toby Jones, Joely Richardson, Elizabeth Olsen, Craig Roberts

Director/writer/editor: Rodrigo Cortés
Cinematography: Xavi Giménez (colour, processing by Image Film, widescreen)
Music: Victor Reyes
Designer: Antón Laguna
Costumes: Patrícia Monné
Producers: Adrián Guerra, Mr. Cortés (Nostromo Pictures in association with Cindy Cowan Entertainment, Antena 3 Films, Televisió de Catalunya)
Spain/USA, 2011, 113 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 8, Lisbon, July 18th 2012


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