Perception (2019)


It doesn’t take a psychic to figure out what’s coming in Perception.

(2018) Thriller (Gravitas Ventures) Wes Ramsey, Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Caitlin Mehner, Max Jenkins, Jro, Vee Kumari, J. Barrett Cooper, Adam & Ali Zoumzoum, Valerie Jane Parker, Matthew Davis, Apollo Bacala, Kelly Mengelkoch, Takayla Williams, Tshombi Basemore, Davis Aguila, Daniel H. Shoemaker, Shaleen Cholera, John French, Sarah East. Directed by Ilana Rein

 

When we lose someone we care about, their spirit stays with us in a sense; they are on our mind as we hold on to their presence for as long as we can. We see them wherever we go; in memories and sometimes as apparitions from better days. We have a tendency to forget the bad memories but they’re there as well.

Daniel (Ramsey) is a high-powered go-getter at a bank that is foreclosing on a suburban shopping strip in L.A. that has seen better days. One of the last tenants of the strip mall is a palmistry shop. When a silent little boy named Hugo (Zoumzoum) stows away in Daniel’s SUV, he figures out that the boy might have come from the shop which, indeed, he has. His mom Nina (Kumbhani) is shocked – “he’s never done this kind of thing before,” she explains once she gets over the shock of seeing her boy with a complete stranger.

Out of a sense of gratitude she gives Daniel a free reading and tells him that he has a spirit attached to him, following him, someone recently deceased. “Your wife?” she inquires. In doing so, she hits a raw nerve. Maggie (Mehner) indeed passed away recently and Daniel is desperate to contact her, willing to pay anything if Nina can do the job for him. Nina’s business partner Jro (Jro) congratulates her on hooking what is an apparently wealthy fish and urges her to reel him in. In the meantime, Hugo is acting out in school and his teacher (East) suggests an expensive private school who can better take care of Hugo’s needs.

And so, Nina starts doing “sessions” with Daniel, even though she is shocked to discover that the spirit of Maggie is angry. “She’s in control,” Nina tells Daniel forthrightly, “She decides what memories she wants you to see.” Indeed, the memories of Maggie are not always pleasant but Daniel wants more. Nina is reluctant but she needs the money so she allows the sessions to go deeper but deeper is dangerous – much more dangerous than even she knows.

This thriller harkens back to the sort of psychosexual thrillers that were popular in the 90s, often as direct-to-VHS or cable. The supernatural element is never overplayed and although we see Maggie as a ghostly apparition once, mostly we see her in flashback.

Sadly, the script veers from what was a promising thriller into fairly cliché territory. Ramsey is a veteran soap opera actor and in some ways the sudsy froth of this script is likely familiar territory for him. Most of the acting performances are pretty strong, although as the movie reaches its climax Ramsey indulges in some serious scenery chewing. However, both Mehner and Kumbhani deliver strong performances and Jro delightfully steals the scenes that he appears in.

The pacing is pretty slow for most of the film and the script gives away a bit too much to make the big twist really effective. That’s the real shame; a little more imagination could have taken this film a long way. As it is it’s fairly mundane but not entirely without entertainment value.

REASONS TO SEE: The performances are for the most part decent.
REASONS TO AVOID: Slow-paced until the plot goes off the rails near the end.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity, violence, sexuality and nudity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The film had its world premiere at the world-famous Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.
BEYOND THE THEATER: Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft, Redbox, Vimeo, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/19/19: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet: Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Dead Again
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Sicario: Day of the Soldado

The Other Man


The Other Man

Ah, the game's afoot...or, in this case, a pawn.

(2008) Drama (Image) Liam Neeson, Antonio Banderas, Laura Linney, Romola Garai, Pam Ferris, Craig Parkinson, Sophie Wu, Lola Peploe, Richard Graham, Emma Fielding, Priyanga Burford. Directed by Richard Eyre

Even in a marriage we often don’t know everything about our partner that we think we do. Sometimes we discover a secret life that is completely unknown to us. When our world comes crashing about our ears, how do we rebuild it without destroying what’s left?

Peter (Neeson) is a successful computer software designer. He is married to Lisa (Linney), a successful shoe designer. They live in Cambridge (the English one) and have a pretty good life. That is, until Lisa disappears.

Peter is frantic, understandably and tries to find a clue, any sort of clue as to where she is. He hacks into her computer and discovers pictures – pictures that indicate she was having an affair with another man. In an instant, he goes from grieving husband to jealous, angry husband.

Using his sleuthing skills, he determines that the nameless Other Man lives in Milan. Peter goes there to find him and, quite possibly, murder him. His daughter Abigail (Garai) is concerned; her father seems obsessive and enraged. She wonders what he intends to do and he refuses to tell her.

Eventually, Peter tracks down Ralph (Banderas), a gentleman living in Milan. Without telling him who he is Peter meets Ralph in a chess café and has a game with him. Soon, Peter realizes that something is fishy about Ralph and that everything is not as it should be. The question soon becomes, where is Laura? The answer might surprise you…

Director Eyre has made some real good movies, including Notes on a Scandal which was far superior to this. Here he crafts a thriller without tension, a drama that isn’t terribly dramatic. The script seems to exist to send you sideways with different plot twists; unfortunately, it spends far too much time on unnecessary plot twists, as when Peter’s suspicions fall on someone working in the office with Lisa.

There is some real quality in the casting too. Liam Neeson is one of the most interesting actors alive; he has a rough exterior but a very soft interior and he is extremely skilled at using both. Some of his scenes as a grieving husband are extremely wrenching, and well worth watching on their own. Banderas is, I think, underrated as an actor, always cast as the Latin lothario but here he takes a part which is a bit different than what we see him in normally. The part appears to be that way, a Spanish gentleman in Gucci loafers, as Peter disparagingly refers to them, in Milan, the center of designer shoes. That should tell you a little bit about who Ralph is.

Garai also does surprisingly well as the daughter. I wasn’t familiar with her previous work, but the girl’s got skills. She infuses Abigail with both compassion and concern. She isn’t weak at all though; she stands up to her dad and gets in his face about things. Yup, just like an actual daughter. I appreciated that element of the storyline.

Unfortunately, not that much else in the film is compelling. Some of the big “twists” are hopelessly telegraphed and some of the action lacks fire. While having Peter and Ralph confront each other over a game of chess, it lacks the emotional charge that the confrontation should have had. There’s no dramatic tension, and that torpedoes the film overall.

However, a movie with these actors in it and a generally skilled director isn’t going to be all bad. This is going to go down as one of their more forgettable efforts but that doesn’t mean it isn’t completely without merit. I would say that it is a movie that isn’t impressive, but has some moments worth savoring.

WHY RENT THIS: Neeson is always compelling, and Banderas takes on a role that’s new for him. Garai does an impressive job. 

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The movie is kind of bland and not well thought out. Certainly all the obfuscation about who the “other man” is was unnecessary.

FAMILY VALUES: Not rated, but there’s some bad language and adult situations regarding marital infidelity, as well as some nudity.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Juliette Binoche was originally supposed to play the part of Lisa but had to leave the cast before filming started. She was replaced by Linney.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $1.1M on an unreported production budget; chances are the movie didn’t make back its budget.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: The Promise