After the little-seen claustrophobic thriller Buried, director Rodrigo Cortes is back with another one that ultimately is too strung out intelligently connect with an audience.
Red Lights features Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy, Elizabeth Olsen and Robert DeNiro with the latter playing a legendary blind psychic who pops up from retirement after 30 years. DeNiro's showman in Simon Silver is the antagonist for Murphy's physicist Tom and Weaver's shrink Margaret Matheson out to debunk phony psychics.
The title comes the dubious hints in the supernatural that point Tom and Margaret against regarded mentalist Palladino (Leonardo Sbaraglia), and their general views about the paranormal provide consternation for psychic studies professor Paul (Toby Jones). Olsen is one of the students, Sally, also a love interest for Tom, who helps their methods, though the cynical Margaret isn't intent in taking down her old adversary. But, Tom gets more pent-up than expected in his private probe with some wild surprises along the way.
Through the use of a U.S. setting (though shot in Spain) a fairly polished production from the nimble editing to lensing and sonorous underscoring of scares tries to relate to the genre in mind-bending, even stream-of-conscious ways. Yet, the dramatic turns are strongly tilted that anything potentially innovative viscerally takes it off the rails, even after a pretty taut chase sequence is staged. So, the story is plugged-in to whet the apparently more violent appetites of mature, older audiences these days.
Thus, Red Lights is up to some old, familiar tricks that isn't a genuine spin on something like The Ghost Whisperer or even the very insightful Inception which could have been a model for the director-writer. Too bad it couldn't sustain what it offered in its earlier passages even if actors like Weaver demonstrate why they're usually better than the material given to them. And, for DeNiro (Being Flynn and an interesting Limitless), he's not really the godsend even with some uncustomary subtle enigmatic shadings, while Murphy and Olsen have emotional energy to burn opposite Weaver's vague resolve. Unfortunately, the filmmakers lose touch with the more cooler palpably foreboding viable established in favor of a frantically improbable freak-out.