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Gothika (2003)
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

review by Michael Lohr

Premise: criminal psychologist Dr Miranda Grey (Halle Berry) awakens to find herself a patient in the very same mental institution in which she works, with no memory of the murder of her husband Doug (Charles S. Dutton) that she's accused of committing. As she tries to regain her memory, a vengeful spirit uses her as an earthly pawn in a deadly game.
   Welcome to ScreamFest City; please leave any and all intellect at the door before wasting good money on a ticket. Berry's portrayal of a person descending into madness and delusion is more reminiscent of a person infected with warbles. The rest of the movie was just as utterly dreadful.
   This is Berry's first solo starring performance in her career (hey sweetie, stick to the X-Men gig). Maybe the stress of her personal life was getting to her as production for Gothika began in April 2002 in Montreal, Canada. Or maybe she just had another blackout in her SUV while studying the script. Gothika attempts to stand with such intriguing classics as The Shining, The Sixth Sense, Stir Of Echoes and the more recent The Ring, instead it looks more like something from the pathetic Scary Movie franchise.
   Dark Castle rapidly pushed this project into development and it shows. Within a six-month period the concept was pitched without a written script, the script was written, approved, and the cast was established. That is 'warp nine' by Hollywood standards and this rush job was quite evident. Additionally, Penélope Cruz plays abused, Satan-infatuated mental patient Chloe. Didn't she play this same character in Vanilla Sky, oh wait, no - that was the blond twit from those Charlie's Angels movies. Robert Downey plays one of Berry's psychiatrist co-workers, Dr Pete Graham, who is hopelessly addicted to drugs (just kidding on that last bit).
   The shear stupidity of this movie shocks me. Especially when you consider that Mathieu Kassovitz (the director of La Haine, The Crimson Rivers and Cafe au Lait) is an excellent talent with a superb track record. Kassovitz made an international splash with the wonderful French film La Haine, or for those rednecks that don't know French, 'Hate'. He is also known for his acting role in the excellent romantic movie Amélie starring the cute and bubbly Audrey Tautou. This movie, the director's English-language debut, is not Kassovitz's fault. He displays his directing abilities well and shows that he's a master of style and atmosphere, but one can only do such much with an inferior script. Unfortunately, interesting camera work can patch up a screenplay that is fatally flawed, but don't waste your time on this movie.

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