Friday, October 15, 2010

Halloween movie review: Ninth Gate

Johnny Depp stars as cutthroat rare book broker Dean Corso in this dark thriller. Ridiculously wealthy and painfully creepy devil enthusiast Boris Balkan employs Corso to examine the validity of a recently acquired piece in his Lucifer book collection: The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows. According to legend, the book was coauthored by Satan and should have the power to summon the devil himself … only Balkan just can’t get the thing to work.

In other words, the book is made of pure WIN … or FAIL. Depends on your point of view.

As Corso seeks out the owners of the only two other existing copies of the book, death follows him at every stop. People who come into contact with the book begin to die in grisly scenes similar to the engravings captured in the book’s pages.

When his not-so-benevolent benefactor’s copy is stolen, Corso must race to find out the truth behind the demonic tome before he is consumed in its murderous wake.

The Ninth Gate emphasizes style over substance and it works perfectly. The characters are so over the top that they border on the comical. A fellow rare book dealer declares Corso “Unscrupulous!” and is answered by a puff of smoke from one of Depp’s signature Pall Mall cigarettes. Frank Langella in his unsettling performance as the sinister Balkan glares at Corso and presses the “secret” combination to his devil focused book vault on the keypad: 666. A pair of twin antique book dealers gush over the quality of Balkan’s book while showering it with ashes from their burning cigarettes.

These comedic touches are so subtle that I missed them until my third or fourth viewing.

See Johnny Depp smoke 72 Pall Malls and have sex with 40% of the speaking female cast members!

Watch Frank Langella chew up entire set pieces like they were m&m’s!

Wonder how the hell a scumbag like Polanski can be such a genius director!

Ninth Gate is not the scariest film around, but it is a stylish and interesting portrait of a group of bibliophiles obsessed with something they cannot truly comprehend. It is definitely a love it or hate it kind of film. If you are ok with the dark subject matter, you will probably love it.

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