STARRING Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O'Hara, Bojana Novakovic, Bokeem Woodbine, Geoffrey Arend DIRECTED BY John Erick Dowdle SCREENPLAY Brian Nelson, M. Night Shyamalan (Story) MPAA RATING Rated PG-13 RUNNING TIME 76 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY Universal Pictures DVD EXTRAS
The Devil's Meeting
The Night Chronicles
Is it really a compliment to say that I enjoyed Devil more than I enjoyed M. Night's The Last Airbender?
Is it really a good idea for a minister to even review a film called Devil?
Is there any legit reason for a film such as Devil, a slight 76-minute short story of a film, to be released into theatres by Universal Pictures?
It's impossible to deny that our dear friend M. Night Shyamalan has an ego. Heck, it's doubtful that even Shyamalan himself would deny it. It's difficult to fathom, however, how the brain trust at Universal Pictures decided that labeling Devil with "From the Mind of M. Night Shyamalan" would actually help market the film. Shyamalan is a reasonably talented director and, yes, even The Last Airbender managed to come reasonably close to breaking even despite being one of 2010's worst films.
But, really. Is the fact that M. Night thought up this idea, or at least had the balls to document thinking up this idea, really that central to the film's success or is it simply another nail in the cinematic coffin bearing M. Night's directorial career?
Devil is a better film than The Last Airbender, mostly owing to the fact that it's a shorter film directed by someone else, Erick Dowdle (Quarantine), who doesn't quite have M. Night's tendencies towards visual and sensory excess and nonsense.
The story is simple. A group of people are trapped in an elevator with, well, Satan (Admit it. You pictured Church Lady). The Devil is picking off people in the elevator one-by-one each time the lights in the elevator go out, a gimmick that gets tiresome even in a mere 76-minutes and is only interesting in how uninteresting it actually is.
The people? There's a people hating salesman (Geoffrey Arend), a security guard on the job for the first day (Bokeem Woodbine), a young woman (Bojana Novakovic), a moody old woman (Jenny O'Hara) and a mysterious mechanic with a hoodie (Logan Marshall-Green). Who the devil could it be?
M. Night is neither director nor writer (Brian Nelson gets the credit) for this film, simply being credited for his original story idea and for putting the film together under his Night Chronicles production banner. While M. Night may not have been directly involved, a fact actually hard to imagine, the film screams out M. Night Shyamalan with its Philly setting, faux twists and other stereotypical M. Night touches. It's almost as if M. Night didn't want to be accused of doing another "twist" film so he gave someone else the credit and simply controlled the reins from behind the scenes.
The performances, and only Chris Messina (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) really could be considered a "name" here, are uniformly weak with the only thrills and chills coming essentially from the occasionally inventive camera work of Tak Fujimoto and a few reasonably paced surprises that nicely interrupt what amounts to far too much time lacking suspense or energy.
For the second film in a row, M. Night seems to be toying with themes of divinity, God and spirituality, however, Devil does so with such a smug sense of self that it's difficult if not impossible to take any of it seriously.
Devil isn't an awful film on par with The Last Airbender, but it's further proof that the mind of M. Night Shyamalan just isn't what it used to be.