Poor Johnny Depp. Ever since the first episode of 21 Jump Street, he's been trying to look like an adult. In Nick of Time, they gave him a daughter. In The Astronaut's Wife, they gave him, well, a wife. In The Ninth Gate, they give him a silly beard, goofy glasses and a self-conscious smoking habit. Depp tries to add substance to his character by talking in a deep voice, but he ends up sounding like a bad stage actor trying to emote to a larger audience.
Depp has a lot of potential as an actor, but movies like this twist that potential into unintentional self-parodies. Maybe if he took himself less seriously the audience could take him more seriously.
Sound and Fury Signifying a Waste of Two Hours
This flighty flick is supposed to be based on a novel. I hope, for the sake of readers, that the book is written with more skill. It takes a long time to get through a bad book, whereas a bad film takes only a couple hours and at least brings a few unintentional laughs.
The greatest joke in The Ninth Gate is the way that it portrays bibliophiles (hardcore book lovers). In this movie, all the bibliophiles, dealers and collectors alike, just happen to know all about any book in question, no matter what that book is. Someone mentions the title of an arcane book and the character rattle off its entire history. In the mind of the screenwriters, book experts are familiar with ALL books, much as the guy at the end of the bar knows about every single Yankees game. Of course, no one knows everything. Experts are experts because they know HOW to find out about their subject, not because they already know everything about it.
Such gaudy misrepresentation of the intellectual life proves that the writers have very little experience with the world of knowledge themselves. All the characters have lots of smart attitude, but very little intelligence at all.
For example, the main character is given one of three copies of a book worth over a million dollars and has reason to believe that thugs are trying to steal it from him, so does he lock it up in a safe-deposit box after examining it? No, he carries it around in a beat-up flap-top canvas bag or hides it behind a refrigerator in his hotel room.
When the same character sees a threatening man following him, does walk to a police station or walk to a safe, crowded place where the man can be confronted? No, he walks into a bar, drinks alcoholic beverages until the streets empty and it gets dark outside, and then tries to outrun the man. Where'd he learn that trick?
Puzzle? What Puzzle?
The secret that eludes the supposedly gifted book experts that populate this film isn't really that hard to figure out. Viewers will get it about an hour and 10 minutes before any of the characters do.
Fortunately, there are many unintended enigmas in this sloppy movie. A mysterious woman follows the main character around. Sometimes, she seems to fly a little, and when she has sex with him she gets a funny smug expression. Who and what is she? The film never really lets the viewer know. Our anti-hero is hired to go to Europe to investigate a bunch of books at the same time that the guy who hires him goes to Europe to do the same thing. Why does this happen? The movie never gives the answer. Somewhere during the movie, our protagonist turns into a Satan-worshipping maniac. When and why? Good question. At the end, he finds an illustration and walks into a pale green light at the door of a castle. Then the credits roll What's that supposed to mean? I'll be damned if I know.
The Ninth Gate is supposed to stir the dark, frightening depths of our souls. Really, it's just a silly second-rate flick that rarely makes any sense. The characters, the setting and the plot are not even plausible enough to maintain an audience's normal suspension of disbelief. Instead of watching in fascination in horror, viewers of The Ninth Gate will be busy trying to figure out what the point of it all is.
If this movie shows what meeting Satan face to face is all about, Satan must be a pathetic little dork.
At Cu Sith:
- U.S. House of Representatives
- U.S. Senate