Red Lights (2012)

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert de Niro, Toby Jones, Elizabeth Olsen, Joely Richardson

Directed by: Rodrigo Cortés

Rating: 1 2 and a half

Sigourney Weaver and Elizabeth Olsen in Red Lights

When there's something strange in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call?

Sigourney Weaver, of course.

In this 'psychological thriller' (so defined by the fact that it features people with PhDs and no car chases) she plays Dr Margaret Matheson, a psychologist and expert in debunking 'paranormal' phenomena. Assisting her is physicist Dr Tom Buckley (the lovely Cillian Murphy) and his slightly pointless student girlfriend Sally (Elizabeth Olsen). Apparently dating your students is okay at Columbus University – but then again this venerable institution does boast not only a department for proving the supernatural doesn't exist, but also another to prove it does, the Department of Scientific Paranormal Research, headed by Toby Jones's preposterously dense Dr Shackleton, a department which, believe it or not, is actually 'oversubsidised'. And if you can swallow that, you might just be able to swallow the rest of this film.

Robert de Niro as psychic Simon Silver

Dr Matheson is tough and pragmatic; she brooks no nonsense and she's afraid of nothing. Together she and Buckley make short work of fake mediums, pretend possessed children and phony faith healers.Yet when controversial blind psychic Simon Silver (Robert de Niro – you can tell he's blind cuz he wears sunglasses) comes out of retirement after thirty years, Matheson refuses to investigate him, for backstory reasons that will become clumsily apparent as the plot unfolds.

Instead, it's Buckley who becomes weirdly obsessed with the celebrated mind reader, spoon bender, healer and all round woo guru. Without Silver seeming to do anything at all, the good physicist becomes his psychic victim, dead birds dropping at his feet, electrical equipment exploding all around him and things going bump in the night.

And... well, to reveal any more would be to spoil the film – not that there's a great deal to spoil, really. Red Lights (so named after the tell tale signs that give away a paranormal hoax) takes almost two hours to come to a fairly unthrilling conclusion, with a twist that manages to be both over-explained and a complete non-sequiteur, which may explain why I didn't see it coming – that or the fact that I nodded off for five minutes half way through...

Cillian Murphy as Dr Tom Buckley in Red Lights

It's not a terrible film, but it all feels a bit déja vu – no psychic powers required. Weaver and de Niro are stuck in roles we've seen them play a hundred times before (strong woman with a hidden weak spot/craggily handsome ranty man who dominates the action), while the plot arc is an ancient chestnut ('There's no such thing as the paranormal!' – 'No wait, maybe there is!' – 'Uh oh, here comes the twist...'). But Cillian Murphy holds the action together competently and has cheekbones to die for, so it's not all bad...

So all in all, unless, like me, you've a dismally wet Sunday afternoon to fill and want to see Cillian Murphy's cheekbones writ large on the big screen, I'd wait for the DVD. Red lights? More like idling on amber.

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