The Ninth Gate
** BM
Starring: Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Lena Olin, Emmanuelle Seigner


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This is one of the finest examples of a misleading ad campaign. The commercials for this film are quick-cut action shots with pulsating techno-rock pumping over them, with talk of Satan and fire and what-not. These ads would put one in the mind that this was a big "End Of Days" or "Blade" type of thing. However, it is actually a molasses-paced Roman Polanski film. Therefore, MANY people will probably be disappointed when they expect slam-bang action and get a brooding mystery with absolutely no payoff.

Johnny Depp is Dean Corso, a slimeball "book detective" that appraises people's libraries and completely screws them, getting great deals on books for himself, and authenticates rare books for rich people on the side. One rich guy is Boris Balkan (Frank Langella), who's got a book called The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, a book about Satan based on a book supposedly written by Satan himself, and of which only three copies remain in existence. He hires Corso to investigate the others and make sure his copy is real. So the book's former owner (Lena Olin) comes to his house and promptly serves up the beav to him, only to flip out when he discovers he's got the book stashed somewhere else. Then he goes to Europe to check the other two copies, followed by some green-eyed French chick (Emmanuelle Seigner), and has vandalism and ominous people following him wherever he goes on this investigation.

This film moves VERY slowly, which is something I wouldn't have a problem with if the subject matter were anywhere near compelling. There is nothing 'pulse-pounding' or 'thrilling' about this, despite the apparent claims of the ads. It's a mystery that isn't particularly interesting.

Johnny Depp is usually a great actor to watch, and he's the main reason I didn't nod off. I kept expecting something worthwhile to happen, and that expecation kept me awake. However, there's a point in this film where we're supposed to believe that the money-grubbing Corso has stopped worrying about his near-death experiences while getting the job done and suddenly cares more about the books than about his payments. This didn't come across at ALL. Anywhere. There is no hint of this. He's home free, and inexplicably he zips off in pursuit of Boris, apparently now 'obsessed.' Ridiculous.

There is some very good cinematography here - a friend of mine described it as being like a painting... but you don't want to stare at a painting for much over ten minutes. There is also no real clear climax of the film - and even if there IS one, it's not at a level high enough to really be climactic at all. There is no real emotion invested in this at all, and after a while, one stops caring about anybody in the film and is just waiting to see if Satan shows up at the end. He doesn't. After the final scene, there was one loud collective groan from the audience, the sure sign of immense feeling of getting gypped.

To be fair, this was apparently very "Polanski-esque" in pacing and visuals, and Polanski fans may appreciate it more than most anyone else. But even they have admitted that the film was very predictable and the ending sucked. So there you have it. Don't bother with this thing.

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