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The Ninth Gate

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Ninth Gate

Starring: Johnny Depp, Lena Olin
Director: Roman Polanski
Rated: R
RunTime: 127 Minutes
Release Date: March 2000
Genres: Horror, Thriller

*Also starring: Frank Langella, Emmanuelle Seigner, James Russo

Review by John Beachem
1 star out of 4

"There's nothing more reliable than a man whose loyalty can be bought for hard cash," Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) states near the beginning of "The Ninth Gate". The film actually starts off rather well, with decent quotes like this one and an intriguing story. However, things grow steadily worse from there, until the movie disintegrates into a heap of cheesy dialogue and horror film cliches. Roman Polanski ("Rosemary's Baby") hasn't made a film in quite some time, since he's been out of the country fleeing a statutory rape charge that was brought against him. Polanski is obviously out of practice. The man who once created a classic horror film like "Rosemary's Baby" back in 1968, now seems incapable of scaring his audiences in any way.

Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) is a finder of rare books (a book detective, as one character puts it). His latest assignment is to track down the remaining two copies of an ancient book for his employer, Boris Balkan. The book is called The Ninth Gate, a sort of bible to devil worshipers. Balkan wants Corso to determine which of the three remaining volumes is authentic, as he is certain that two of them are forgeries. Corso's journey leads him to France, Portugal and Spain as he tracks down collectors of rare and occult books. He soon discovers that he is being followed by two interested parties. One is Liana Tefler (Lena Olin), who was the original owner of Balkan's copy, the other is a young lady (Emmanuelle Seigner) who seems to be protecting Corso for unkown reasons.

Like I said, it really is a rather interesting plot idea, but Polanski somehow botches it beyond all recognition. One of the largest problems with the film is that Polanski seems incapable of tightening the script in any way. We are constantly given scenes like this one: Johnny Depp walks into the room, looks around for a minute and a half, then unpacks his bag. He looks at his book for several more minutes, then puts it away and walks out of the room. You'd be amazed at the amount of yawning I heard in the audience during this so called thriller. It seems Polanski decided to spend all his time on scenes which we couldn't care less about, but in the tradition of "Eye of the Beholder" and "Boiler Room", he spent no time at all on the film's ending. This is another one you can add to that ever growing list of films that just stops in mid-scene, rather than really ending.

I recently heard that Johnny Depp refused to discuss "The Ninth Gate", being unhappy with the final product. His lack of enthusiasm for the film certainly shows in his performance. The man looks bored out of his mind throughout the entire film. As for the rest of the cast, the only interesting performance comes from Frank Langella ("Cutthroat Island") as a creepy millionaire. Lena Olin ("Mystery Men") has always appeared to possess no acting talent whatsoever, and she continues to display this here. Emmanuelle Seigner ("Frantic") is given very little to do, and she does so admirably. The most aggravating and yet somehow strangely amusing performance (or perhaps I should say performances) comes from Jose Lopez Rodero, playing twin brothers who complete one another's scentences.

The last thing I'm going to mention is the music used in this film. I'm not sure who chose it, but it is more suitable for a comedy than a horror film. There is nothing remotely suspensful about it; what suspense might be in the film, is killed whenever the music starts playing. If 2000 continues with the sort of movies I've seen so far, we're all in for a very long year. "The Ninth Gate" is yet another waste of time. Luckily, "American Beauty" and "The Sixth Sense" are playing in theaters right now, having been re-released after their Oscar nominations. I'd suggest seeing one of those rather than this piece of tripe. The movie runs far too long at 127 minutes, which should have been cut down to at least 110. I'd recommend it only to die hard fans of Johnny Depp, and give it two out of five stars.

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* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made, see it now. * * * * - Great flick, try and catch this one. * * * - Okay movie, hits and misses. * * - Pretty bad, see it only if you have nothing better to do. * - One of the worst movies ever made. See it only if you enjoy pain.

Copyright 2000 John Beachem

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