"Roxanne, you don't..." Okay, I just can't finish that, because it's too obvious, and at any rate, Sting is singing about "the" red light, as if to say there's one red light, whereas this film is about "Red Light[u]s[/u]". Hey, there's a difference that makes quite a difference, because if you've ever been stuck behind a series of red lights, I don't know if you can so much call this film a thriller, as much as you can call it a bona fide horror film. Shoot, I don't even know if I can joke about that either, because this film is about a physicist and a psychologist teaming up to mess with some psychic, so, seriously, just how thrilling can this possible be? Oh, that's what we said about "Buried" some film about some bum being buried, yet it came out as a success, and this is the same director. Well, in all fairness, in "Buried", he was working with Ryan Reynolds, who has always been charming enough for me to sit in a coffin with him for a while, but here, all Rodrigo Cortés has to work with is... Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro and Toby Jones. Wow, this is kind of an impressive cast for a film that no one saw, but at any rate, the point is that this film at least has some charm going for it, although that's not going to be enough to overshadow the problems.
Not especially realized as a thriller with only so much consequentiality, this film tends to rely on heavy-handedness to get its points across, having a certain liveliness to its abrasiveness, but nevertheless bearing down on you with unsubtle score plays, alone, and further distancing through scripting whose thin characterization and plotting lacks depth that should drive this steady thriller. Rodrigo Cortés turns in a script that is lacking in storytelling layering, which cannot be justified by meat in this film's dramatically lightweight story concept, for even on paper, this drama was never to carry much in the way of momentum, it's just that Cortés doesn't help. As if there wasn't enough limpness to Cortés' drawing thin characters being a thin execution of a plot concept that was never to be particularly meaty, what Cortés' scripting lacks in material it makes up for in filler, or at least repetitious material, which drags and drags, until the film becomes aimless and unevenly paced, and not just in storytelling's written form. Again, the lack of delicacy to Cortés' direction, on top of shaking subtlety, keeps the film kind of lively, with highlights that really bring the engagement value to life, but when not much is going on to either impact you with or simply beat you over the head with, Cortés fails, if not neglects to incorporate some kind of flare, resulting in bland spells that really water down a sense of suspense. Of course, the storytelling element which most reflects laziness and defuses shock is a lack of originality, because at the end of the day, there's hardly, if at all anything in this film that you haven't already seen in "The X-Files", let alone other paranormal and psychological thrillers of this type, leaving impact to go slowed down simply by your knowing what's coming. Despite an adequate amount of surprising spots, predictability plagues the final product about as much as anything, which is saying a lot, because there is a lot which plagues this unsubtle and unevenly paced "thriller". Quite frankly, while I was watching the film, I found myself forgetting it, but I can recollect enough to tell you that while this thriller occupies your time, by no means does it waste it, not even as much as it squanders its potential, however limited.
Inconsistent in dramatic weight, lacking in layers as a thriller, and not even original, this film's story concept limits the final product's bite enough through natural shortcomings, which are themselves limited, by elements that are, in fact, intriguing, perhaps thoroughly so, whether they be tightening in on some edgy conflicts, or incorporating some depth to the dramatics, or painting a paranormal mystery whose evidence of reality in questionable. Like I said, there's plenty to predict in this formulaic thriller, but at the same time, while the film has to resort to a silly twist or tow, the fact of the matter is that this study on what may or may not be the paranormal, and coming to terms with truths about yourself has its shocking moments and thematically weighty aspects, both of which primarily reside in a concept that is done both injustice and justice in a fair execution. Even the film's visual style anchors much of the effectiveness of the tension, as Xavi Giménez's cinematography has a bleakness to its lighting and coloration that, while not particularly unique or richly dynamic, is rugged in its grit, to where it both fits and augments the thriller's intensity, and looks good by its own right. A little more significant of a compliment to the edge of this thriller is, of course, Rodrigo Cortés, at least as director, for although Cortés' storytelling is either limp or heavy-handed, moments of realization to momentum really do get to the nerves, drawing some genuine tension to highlight pacing that is rarely entertaining to some extent. Yes, there are dull spots, but they're relatively rare in this tightly paced, if a little abrasive thriller, which is, at the very least, pretty entertaining, if not kind of tense, despite being rather dramatically lacking. Of course, if there is some dramatic effectiveness, then it's not Cortés' performance that drives it, but rather, the performances that one might predict are pretty solid, given the quality of a cast, from which Sigourney Weaver - as a particularly thinly drawn, but still charismatic and somewhat emotionally uneasy psychologist - and Robert De Niro - as a blind possible psychic who grows tired of his career, if not his life as a unique being - stands out, about as much as leading man Cillian Murphy, who is always as charming as he usually is, but does more than the film deserves by gradually packing on dramatic layers that capture the confusion of a man against the paranormal who fears that his lack of beliefs, if not his safety are challenged. When material to really play with finds Murphy, if not his peers, the acting really shines, and quite frankly, the drama shines with it, for although this is a generally limp thriller, there are plenty of highlights, which grow a little more recurring, until you end up with decent latter acts that are worth waiting for in an effort which is still consistently entertaining enough to hold your interest, even if it's typically with a loose grip.
When the light dies down, intensity which natural dramatic shortcomings thin enough in concept go further watered down by subtlety and pacing issues, and a lack of originality that ultimately render the final product underwhelming, if not forgettable, but not to where you can completely disregard an intriguing idea's being done enough justice by a rugged visual style, some biting direction, and strong performances - especially by Robert De Niro, Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy - to make Rodrigo Cortés' "Red Lights" a fairly entertaining and often tense thriller with bright spots for every shortcomings.
2.5/5 - Fair