COLUMBIA TRISTAR'S "Gothika" is a thriller that gets lost after the first couple of reels. Director Mathieu Kassovitz and scriptwriter Sebastian Gutierrez appear to be pulling the reels of the film in different directions.
Till the end, one found it hard to figure out whether they were trying to unspool a psychological thriller or a plain ghost story. And what is it all about?
Dr. Miranda Grey is a brilliant and revered criminal psychologist who uses logic and reason to treat dangerous patients in a hospital run by her husband. But her peace and sanity stand threatened after a ghostly encounter on a rainy night on a lonely road.
Kassovitz and cinematographer Matthew Libatique, while trying to create an atmosphere of Gothic eeriness, force the viewer to jump so often that they dilute the fear to innocuous cinematic cliches.
In the end, "Gothika" looks like a study in banality: where ghosts saunter about, where women are molested, where dysfunctional men seek revenge...
One was disappointed with "Gothika" largely because it has been helmed by Kassovitz, whose gripping "La Haine" (Hate) won him the Golden Palm for Best Director at the 1995 Cannes International Film Festival
Would all this mean that "Gothika" is a complete write off ? No. One must see it for the excellent performance by Halle Berry as Dr Grey. Her sense of timing, her perfect rhythm with the pace of the thriller and her extremely expressive face that portray fear and pain are indicators of a great actress.
When she mouths a great line, ``I don't believe in ghosts, but they believe in me,'' her voice seems like an island of refreshing sense. And, look at Berry's range. She was Ms Jinx in the latest James Bond feature, "Die Another Day," and added a completely new dimension to what Bond's women have come to be: painted dolls.
Berry's performance in "Monster's Ball" — which helped her clinch an Oscar for the Best Actress was even more impressive, and, yes, bold. One feels that Berry is as superb in "Gothika" as she was in "Monster's Ball." "Gothika" is worth a watch for Berry's captivating style.
(This review appeared in The Hindu dated April 9 2004)