Tuesday, 24 September 2019 03:51 GMT

Ealy shines in scrappy 'Jacob's'

(MENAFN - Arab Times) Rosenthal's head-trip thriller falls short

Jacob's Ladder

I t's
understandable that someone would want to remake 'Jacob's Ladder', Adrian
Lyne's 1990 head-trip thriller about a Vietnam veteran haunted by fragmentary
nightmare visions. I was far from alone in finding the original to be an
overwrought but rather thin 'psychological' horror film that was more punishing
than pleasurable. And it wasn't exactly a hit, grossing just $26 million in the
US. Yet it's easy to see why 'Jacob's Ladder', over the years, became a bit of
a cult movie. It has some astonishing bad-acid-trip imagery (the Francis
Bacon-meets-FX quivery heads, etc), and consumed late at night it conjures a
certain random hallucinatory relentlessness that anticipates the
throw-demons-at-the-wall-and-see-if-they-stick scare-cinema tactics of the
digital era.

That's why you'd expect a remake
of 'Jacob's Ladder' to come out of the glossy megaplex fear processor, the one
that gave us all those remake/sequels to 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre', 'The
Thing', 'The Ring', 'The Evil Dead', and other sensational contempo horror
milestones. With a filmmaker like James Wan or Kiyoshi Kurosawa or Sam Raimi at
the helm, it could have been, if nothing else, a state-of-the-art mind-f-k.

Instead, the new version of
'Jacob's Ladder', directed by David M. Rosenthal, is one of those low-budget,
no-atmosphere indie productions that has lurid utilitarian lightning, outdoor
scenes that look like they were shot in the back alleys of Toronto (I'm not
saying they were – just that they feel that way), and a lurching stop-and-start
rhythm. You can forge a decent drama out of elements this scrappy, but not
necessarily a film like 'Jacob's Ladder'.

In the new version, when Jacob
Singer (Michael Ealy), a trauma surgeon who works at the Atlanta VA hospital,
sees visions that echo the ones in the original film (phantoms on the subway,
worms under his wife's skin, one of those sinister vibrating heads), the visual
effects aren't bad, but they aren't lavish enough to conjure the momentary
tingle of dread that Adrian Lyne did. In the 30 years since 'Jacob's Ladder', a
lot of hallucinatory bat-house imagery has passed under the bridge. A few
token, pasted-in fear shots won't cut it.

But if the new version falls flat
as midnight-movie spectacle, it's at least built around a promising idea of
inner hell. Jacob keeps getting hints that his brother, Isaac (Jesse Williams),
a casualty of the war in Afghanistan, is actually still alive. Then, in a
subway tunnel, he finds him. Jacob, married to the tough but tender Samantha
(Nikki Beharie), with an infant son, has the 'perfect' life. Whereas Isaac,
haunted by his wartime experiences, is falling apart. He appears to be a victim
of HDA, an experimental drug approved by the government to treat veterans with
post-traumatic stress disorder, only the side effects are such that the drug
causes more trauma than it cures. We brace ourselves for a rotely 'paranoid'
anti-government conspiracy movie (which is what the original 'Jacob's Ladder',
beneath its imagery, basically was).


The new version, though, actually
wants to be more of a head trip. It's not just that Jacob keeps seeing things;
it's that his entire life may be an illusion – a dream he sheds as the movie
goes on. At a certain point, 'Jacob's Ladder' starts to feel more like a
cut-rate version of David Lynch's 'Mulholland Drive', a tale in which the
ultimate nightmare is waking up inside a new identity. Michael Ealy acts this
out with an existential fear that's vivid and convincing. Yet even here, the
essential scrappiness of the film remains. The new 'Jacob's Ladder' plays like
a half-hearted sketch of the movie it could have been. Given that, I'd say that
it might actually not be a bad idea to remake 'Jacob's Ladder' again, only this
time with a genuine update of the creepy-freaky imagery, as well as a story
that, at last, does it justice.


LOS ANGELES: Cut off Russell
in traffic at your own peril!

That's the takeaway from the
first look at 'Unhinged', an upcoming thriller that stars the Oscar-winning
'Gladiator' actor as a man who takes road rage to frightening new levels. Crowe
appears in the Solstice Studios release alongside Caren Pistorius , who
portrays Rachel, a mother who hits the horn at the exact wrong moment. In the
first look image, Crowe smolders with the fury of a thousand Maximuses.

'The mark of a great film is one
that both entertains and sparks conversation,' director Derrick
said. 'I believe, in a very terrifying way, 'Unhinged' does exactly that.'

Production on the film wraps on
Sunday in New Orleans. 'Unhinged', planned for a third quarter 2020 release,
marks Solstice Studios' first production since launching last October. The
studio aims to produce between three and five movies per year, with most films
carrying budgets between $20 million and $80 million. It also plans to
co-finance or acquire another two to three films annually and will be at the
Toronto International Film Festival looking for movies to buy.

'Unhinged' co-stars Gabriel
and Jimmi Simpson . The screenplay is by Carl
('Disturbia') with Lisa Ellzey ('Warrior')

Borte previously directed
'American Dreamer'. Crowe recently appeared as Roger Ailes in Showtime's 'The
Loudest Voice' and will next appear in 'True History of the Kelly Gang'.
Pistorius' credits include 'Gloria Bell' and 'Mortal Engines'. (RTRS)

By Owen Gleiberman



Ealy shines in scrappy 'Jacob's'

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