Red Lights (15)
The presence of Robert De Niro and Sigourney Weaver in this plodding tale of professional paranormal de-bunkers can’t counter the utter lack of any real presence, if you get my drift.
Like Harry Houdini, who spent the years after World War I exposing charlatan spiritualists who preyed on the grieving relatives of dead soldiers, Margaret Matheson (Weaver) has devoted 30 years to investigating unusual phenomena only to find… nothing.
As she tells assistant Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy), there is a rational explanation for everything. Margaret is cold, unfeeling and a devout sceptic. Tom is searching for something. Precisely what even he isn’t sure.
But when ‘70s paranormal superstar Simon Silver (De Niro) emerges from the shadows three decades after vanishing into self-imposed obscurity, Tom is desperate to tackle him. Margaret is reluctant. Why? And why is Tom so eager to confront him?
Red Lights – the title come from the “discordant notes” that attract scientists to scrutinise reports of odd goings-on – aspires to be a 21st century Sixth Sense but eventually deflates like one of M Night Shyamalan’s lesser efforts.
Silver, a sightless, charismatic Uri Geller-esque showman who combines performance art with prayer meetings, is meant to reflect society’s conflict over communication with the dead: Average Joe doesn’t believe – but secretly he wants to.
Even Margaret admits her iron will was once tested. And with academic colleagues urging her to bend to the popular view she is a lonely voice of reason.
Writer/director Rodrigo Cortés adopts a teasing approach to his subject, allowing De Niro’s barn-storming antics and some sleight-of-hand effects shore up a weak script. The denouement, when it comes, is not worth the wait.