‘Red Eye’: A Fly-By-Night Thriller
Look closely and you’ll notice an interesting paradigm shift happening in Hollywood. In the past, the unwritten rules dictated that in order to scare up an audience, an edge-of your seat thriller needed an R-rating, replete with the requisite blood, violence, profanity and nudity necessary to pull in the young male demographic. Conversely, the longstanding belief was that in order for a comedy to maximize its box office potential, PG-13 was as far as it could go. A little mild profanity was acceptable, but no sex or bloody corpses, thank you.
There have always been exceptions to the rule, most notably 1998’s “There’s Something About Mary,” which until it was supplanted last week by “Wedding Crashers” was the highest grossing R-rated comedy ever.
However, spurred by the desire to lure teenage girls (and women of all ages, for that matter), the thriller genre has been flooded with profitable PG-13 offerings; “The Ring” and its sequel, “The Grudge,” “The Village,” and “Secret Window” to name just a few. Likewise, studio executives noted the sales and rental tallies for the “unrated” (more explicit) versions of recent comedies on DVD, and decided to try to pump up the box office by releasing raunchier versions in theaters too.
An excellent example of this change of heart happened this past week with the simultaneous arrival of two movies in theaters nationwide. One, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” is a decidedly R-rated comedy about, well, you figure it out. (Family newspaper etiquette applies.) The other, “Red Eye,” is a PG-13 thriller directed by king of horror Wes Craven.
With “Red Eye,” Craven has fashioned a suitably entertaining contrivance that works well– particularly in its first hour and 15 minutes before it runs out of steam (and brains). Rachel McAdams (“The Notebook,” “Wedding Crashers”) stars as Lisa Reisert, the young manager of an upscale Miami hotel who’s flying home from her grandmother’s funeral in Texas. Brian Cox, (“The Rookie,” both ‘Bourne’ movies) a good actor sporting a bad dye job, is Lisa’s dad. More specifically, he’s the potential victim of an assassin’s bullet– if his daughter refuses to cooperate on her end with a plan to off the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security and his family. Cillian Murphy (“28 Days Later,” “Batman Begins”) is Jackson Rippner, the man with that deadly plan who’s at once charming and threatening too.
The film’s setup is swift and solid. The depiction of present-day air travel will make you wince if you’re a frequent flyer, and soon after their plane takes off, Jackson reveals his intentions to Lisa and the tension begins to mount. Craven makes good use of Carl Ellsworth’s smart script and his own talent for framing a scene to ratchet up the suspense. (Have you noticed how the guys who got their start making horror movies always know how to point the camera just so? See Sam Raimi’s work for further proof.) Indeed, as long as the plane is in the air, the story flies too. But once the landing gear comes down, so does the film’s momentum.
It’s difficult to describe exactly how the film’s ending proves to be a letdown without giving away too many of the particulars. Suffice to say that if you’re a fan of films of this genre, you won’t find it hard to predict what’s going to happen next before it happens onscreen.
Maybe the “uncut” DVD will have a better ending.
PG-13: For some intense sequences of violence, and language.