Slick, sophisticated beginning, quickly sinks into mediocrity, partially because director Rodrigo Cortes’s ambitious mission and script are too erudite; his preoccupation and ardour of science and the cloudy, empirical world of the paranormal becomes detrimental, confusing; looses its path and the audience.
Sigourney Weaver plays “ Dr. Margaret Matheson” a psychologist specializing in debunking, exposing sensational, charlatan psychics. The part was written with her in mind and she owns it completely. She is assisted by “Tom Buckley” (gifted, beautiful Irish actor, Cillian Murphy, at first viable, flounders, fades as a legitimate scientist); the power of the film rests in their relationship; in one classroom scene they demonstrate how the paranormal mystique can be achieved by slight of hand, diversion, chiaroscuro . It was a partnership that, with a rewrite could have earned the film another star.
Robert De Niro, as blind “Simon Silver” the slimiest and most renown of the psychics, emerges after a thirty -year hiatus, to taunt and tempt the disbelievers; mesmerize, followers; his ranting oratories, enhanced by pyrotechnics, gimmicks at the Cirque du Soleil level, veins popping, screaming at a preacher’s pitch are laughable annoyances.
Elizabeth Olsen is totally miscast as “Sally” a precocious student, romantically involved with Tom. “Sally”, sadly should have been eliminated from the script; her mundane lines, and affected intelligence were an embarrassing distraction; largest sin: the complete lack of chemistry between she and Tom.
In conclusion Cortes should have paid heed to Occam’s Razor : “Red Lights” lacked an economy of succinctness; inaccessible, unsatisfying solutions, to the unnatural occurrences of the inexplicable phenomena of the paranormal.