Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) study paranormal activity with the hope of debunking it. When renowned psychic Simon Silver (Robert DeNiro) comes out retirement, Tom becomes obsessed with taking him down.
At the beginning, it seems as though Red Lights is going to be a horror film; Weaver and Murphy make their way into a house where strange banging noises and unexplained events have happened. They soon debunk this theory and return to their lab. They are psychologists who spend their free time disproving hauntings and psychic phenomena. This is a clever enough idea for a film, and certainly the idea is tested to its limits once Silver is introduced to the mix, but the final revelation is so strange and only partially explained that the audience is left wondering what the point of the film was.
Sigourney Weaver as Margaret Matheson is absolutely fine. She does not really get a chance to set the screen alight, but she proves that she is more than able for Toby Jones and Cillian Murphy. Speaking of Murphy, it is great to see him back in leading man territory after his smaller roles in Tron: Legacy, Inception and the straight to DVD movie Retreat. Murphy has proven many times that he has the chops to be a charismatic leading man, and Red Lights is no exception. It is a good job really, because many of the other great actors in the film are criminally underused. Elizabeth Olsen is really only used as a sounding board for Murphy, a shame since she is quickly proving herself to be a strong actress.
Robert DeNiro gives a very strange performance. Not only is the character blind – and this is revealed in a very clunky and obvious manner – but he appears out for vengeance even though he has not really been wronged. As well as this, Simon Silver is a weirdly evil version of David Copperfield who holds audience with people in a disused shop. This is never explained either…
Tom Buckley spends most of the movie trying to figure out how to bring down the man he believes to be a fraud, even when he is warned not to by Matheson. This turns into an obsession, even when he is threatened and scared away, but the audience is not told why Buckley is so tenacious until a strange and obviously cobbled together voice over tries to wrap everything up in the last few minutes. It is obvious that director Rodrigo Cortés is most comfortable in the ‘horror movie’-esque scenes in the film, as these are the ones that work the best. For the rest of the time, the audience is trying to figure out where the story is going rather than going along for the ride.
In all, it seems that Robert DeNiro is no longer an actor who we can trust. Some of his most recent films were New Year’s Eve, Limitless and Little Fockers… It is a shame to have to say it, but it seems that DeNiro is not making good choices lately. The story of Red Lights meanders and rambles (rather than twists and turns), the final voice over is cringy and if it weren’t for Cillian Murphy, the film would be unwatchable. As it stands it is a disappointment; a mediocre film starring some of the strongest actors working today.