Saturday, November 14, 2009

THE BOX - They Pushed The Wrong Button

THE BOX (suspense thriller)
Cast: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella, Basil Hoffman, Gillian Jacobs, James Rebhorn, Michele Durrett, Andria Blackman and Sam Oz Stone
Director: Richard Kelly
Time: 113 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

Frank Langella, Cameron Diaz and James Marsden in THE BOX

PREAMBLE: Look, if someone gave me a box with a button on it I would sure as hell press the button just to see what it does. And if that someone were to give me a MILLION BUCKS to press the button, well, so much the better. If some stranger dies
because I hit that button, so what???

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? So when you have a 'suspense thriller' about a middle-class couple in Richmond, Virginia, USA, being given a Box with this sort of deal, where's the mystery or suspense? We know that Arthur Lewis (James Marsden), and his wife, Norma (Cameron Diaz) are gonna hit that button because they need the cash (who doesn't?) and Gawd, in 1976, that's a lot of dough!

And of course there's a catch. When the weird-looking 'benefactor' named Arlington Steward (Frank Langella) comes along with a bag of a million smackeroos, he tells them about the catch - and that's when all hell starts to break loose.

HITS & MISSES: Directed by Richard Kelly (of Donnie Darko fame), The Box is adapted from the short story 'Button, Button' by Richard Matheson, the writer who also gave us the original idea for 'I Am Legend'. However, Kelly, who writes the screenplay, includes lots of twists and turns involving a NASA Mars probe and the NSA (the US National Security Agency) and turns an interesting plot into a gawd-awful mess. Why, Kelly even intimates supernatural or extra-terrestrial powers in a story that is basically about choices - making the right moral decision.

And for a movie set in the 1970s, Kelly has come up with some pretty cool effects - like a block of water levitating over a bed, and Langella's character with half his left cheek gone so that we can see his teeth through a scarred hole. Indeed, this 'spectacle' tends to distract us from the narrative - like I was wondering how the make-up wizards accomplished such a look, or was it CGI?

On the technical side, I like the way the movie's being 'washed' in brownish hues to make it look 'Seventy-ish' and even the fashion. However, Diaz's Southern accent wanders and sounds phony.

THE LOWDOWN: They seem to have pushed the wrong buttons on this one and it blows up in their faces!


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