Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Reaping

If anything, this lukewarm thriller did one thing for me- cement my opinion that I do not like Hilary Swank. I know, she won best actress for Million Dollar Baby, and I don't get it. I didn't care for that movie, and I didn't care for her in it. The Reaping is no different. It's a mediocre movie with cool special, and unfortunately for me- one of the best trailers and marketing campaigns I've seen in a while. I should have figured that was simply to make up for a dud of a movie.

The premise is promising enough. Hilary Swank plays a college professor, Katherine Winter, who investigates supposedly religious miracles, and debunks them. She gets called to a small town in Louisiana that is supposedly under siege from biblical plagues. Water into blood, frogs, fire from the sky, the works. This idea drew me in especially with their aggressive marketing campaign. Generally, biblical ideas in modern settings always seems like an interesting premise, and I had never seen one such as this. I wish it had lived up to my expectations.

This first bit of the film is not terrible. If you overlook the acting not only by Swank, but by David Morrisey (who plays Doug, the man who recruits Winter), and Idris Elba (Ben, Winter's colleague). The first plagues are interesting to behold and genuinely a little scary. The conflict between Winter and the religious zealots of the town, especially the mayor (John McConnell). This is interesting to watch, even though the acting a bit overblown, and the idea gets rehashed over and over again. They are blaming the plagues on a little girl, and in every other scene there is a fight between Winter and someone about it. The basic structure follows: Plague, Winter and someone argue about blaming girl, Plague, Winter and another person argue about girl, Plague, etc. It goes on like this through the whole movie.

I'm not saying it's all banality like this. There is actually development of Swank's character as she struggles with her lost faith. None of this is ever really believable, however. Throughout the movie they drop little clues that I felt led to an obvious conclusion. Surprisingly, they managed to twist all of it around, and actually create a completely surprising conclusion. Unfortunately, the ending just wasn't very good. The ending I was expecting (as obvious as it would have been) would have also just been better. I guess a surprising ending doesn't necessarily make it good.

Visually it's a pretty good movie. The effects of plagues are fascinating to watch, but there's not very much of it. The plagues go by very quickly, and they movie doesn't linger on each one very long. I would liked to have seen more of a study of the plagues and what they are, instead just as fuel for more arguing.

Looking back on what I've written, it sounds like I've been really hash on this movie. It really wasn't terrible, just not very good. This was made worse by the high expectations I had going into it. The idea is there, just the substance to back it up is lacking. The acting falls flat, the ending falls flat, and the movie in general is just kind of a dud.


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