The Ninth Gate

"Weak"

The Ninth Gate Review


Opening like a cheap horror movie with titles that fly out of computer-animated castle facades, "The Ninth Gate" has an uphill battle to recover respectability from the very beginning.

Director Roman Polanski bounces back nicely at first though, weaving an eerie, Gothic fabric around this film featuring Johnny Depp as an unscrupulous rare book expert, hired by a cadaverous demonology collector (Frank Langella) to find and authenticate two similar copies of an ancient Satanic volume he has acquired through questionable means.

Sent to Portugal and Paris to study the other editions, Dean Corso (Depp) discovers the demonic engravings that grace each book differ slightly from copy to copy. Some of the drawings, he seems to believe, are signed by Lucifer himself.

Soon the owners of these other copies are murdered, the engravings have been stolen from the books, and Corso is caught up in a labyrinth of deception and danger that includes being hunted by the widow (Lena Olin) of the first book's rightful owner, and being followed by a mystery woman (Emmanuelle Seigner) with supernatural powers. Is she a guardian angel? An agent of his employer? Perhaps both?

It's enticing, but throughout the movie there are hints that lethal ludicrousness lurks around every corner, waiting for an opportunity to pounce on the picture and devour every foot of remaining film.

Adapting the film from the novel "El Club Dumas" by Arturo Perez Reverte, Polanski produces an effectively dark and otherworldly atmosphere without resorting to trite shadows-and-fog stylings. He has great command over what the audience is feeling for the first half of the movie, even though he fails to reveal enough about his hero to understand why he doesn't just walk away from the danger.

But by the time Corso and the mystery woman team up and swipe a cherry red Dodge Viper (product placement!) to follow Langella, "The Ninth Gate" has disintegrated into the high-brow equivalent of a cheap, straight-to-video thriller -- the kind that usually feature sexy vampires played by porno actresses looking to go legit. For the last 40 minutes of the movie, Polanski could have swapped Depp for talent-challenged fellow "Jump Street" alum Richard Grieco and it wouldn't have made a scrap of difference.

Until "Ninth Gate" turns vapid in the last couple reels, Depp gives a deeply immersed performance, playing Corso's serpentine nature beautifully and even affecting a deeper, clearer, more educated vocal inflection than we've heard from him before. However, his credibility as a book expert is shaky at best. A true connoisseur would closely examine bindings, etc. A true connoisseur wouldn't smoke while flipping through fragile, 600-year-old volumes, letting ash fall on the pages.

Langella ("Lolita") is also unrecognizable, looking somehow reptilian and very ominous in thick glasses, a gray wig. But he becomes absurd once it's revealed his character is the leader of a cult whose members wear dark satin cloaks and meet to chant at picturesque chateaux in the kind of shopworn scenes that looked ridiculous even before Stanley Kubrick revived them in "Eyes Wide Shut."

Already 30 minutes longer than it needed to be, "Ninth Gate" becomes a total washout with Langella's inevitable and laughably hackneyed, fire-and-brimstone Satan-rising ritual -- which, of course, takes place in the foreboding ruins a remote castle.

"Yes! Yes! All is in readiness! I feel the power surge through me!" he laughs maniacally. "Muh-ha-ha-ha-ha! I'm invincible!"

I swear I'm not making this up.



The Ninth Gate

Facts and Figures

Run time: 133 mins

In Theaters: Friday 10th March 2000

Box Office Worldwide: $58.4M

Budget: $38M

Distributed by: Artisan Entertainment

Production compaines: Lionsgate, Canal+, Artisan Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 41%
Fresh: 36 Rotten: 51

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Dean Corso, as Boris Balkan, as Liana Telfer, as The Girl, as Baroness Kessler, as Victor Fargas, José López Rodero as Pablo & Pedro Ceniza/1st & 2nd Workmen, as Bernie, Willy Holt as Andrew Telfer, as Witkin, Tony Amoni as Liana's Bodyguard, Jacques Dacqmine as Old Man, Joe Sheridan as Old Man's Son, Rebecca Pauly as Daughter-In-Law, Catherine Benguigui as Concierge, Maria Ducceschi as Secretary, Jacques Collard as Gruber, Dominique Pozzetto as Desk Clerk, Emanuel Booz as Baker, Lino Ribeiro de Sousa as Hotel Porter, Asil Raïs as Cabby, Bernard Richier as Cafe Owner, Marinette Richier as Cafe Owner

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.