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The Box

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The Box
Released on Friday, Dec 4 2009

Stylistic conventions dictate that this review doesn't kick off with a four-letter expletive. A certain faecal word certainly sums up the artistic merits of The Box, a tedious and often excruciating production from Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly. Failing to engage on any level, the movie squanders its intriguing premise and lethargically limps along with one nonsensical scene following another. It's utter xxxx.

Based on a Richard Matheson short story called 'Button, Button', the bare bones of the plot deal with the moral dilemma faced by a young couple presented with a bizarre proposition that will erase their financial woes. A mysterious, facially disfigured man (Langella) offers teacher Norma (Diaz) and NASA engineer Arthur (Marsden) $1 million just to push a simple button in a box he gives them. In return, someone, somewhere will die. Unbeknown to the pair though, the stranger has a connection with another world. There's no denying that the premise is fascinating, but beyond that is a severe lack of narrative development. No drama. No style. Nothing.

Sadly, Richard Kelly appears more concerned with trying to assemble aesthetically alluring shots than ensuring that the story proceeds in an engrossing (or bearable) direction. Style can be substance with the right visual flair, but Kelly seems bereft of that judging by the abundance of laborious, over-indulgent imagery that yearns to be deemed profound. His motto seems to be: if in doubt, stick in yet another dialogue-free take of poor Frank Langella standing in a wind tower trying to look menacing. One particularly nonsensical sequence set in a library has to be seen to be believed - but please don't take that as any encouragement whatsoever to see The Box.

So much of the movie's content is risible, like the desperately contrived attempts to whip up some ambiguity with random nosebleeds by some shady supporting characters and an alien conspiracy plot that's incongruously shoehorned into the mix during the latter half. The ending, a final chance for some form of redemption for this mess, is also totally botched and provokes howls of laughter instead of the emotional poignancy it craves. As for the dialogue - it's all so stilted that the poor leads (who are all faultless and deserving of sympathy) stand no chance whatsoever.

Arduous and mind-numbing to sit through, The Box feels like cinematic purgatory. Why not ship this movie out to Australia and force the contestants of I'm A Celebrity... to watch it as their next bushtucker trial? It's a far grimmer proposition than munching on kangaroo anus and nibbling at koala nadsack. Seriously.


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