The Ninth Gate Movie Review
Cast & Crew
Director : Roman Polanski
Producer : Roman Polanski
Fortunately, The Ninth Gate is neither of these. In actuality, it's a mystery with Johnny Depp as the unlikely hero, Frank Langella as the perfectly-cast antagonist, and Lena Olin and Emmanuelle Seigner as the femmes fatale. Under the direction of Roman Polanski, you can rest assured that these characters get mixed up quite a bit en route through a serpentine plot that is far more interesting than its subject matter would imply: The search for a couple of rare books.
As Polanski's first movie since 1994's Death And the Maiden, the auteur has a lot to make up for in lost time. Apparently striking into more commercial territory, The Ninth Gate offers Depp as a chain-smoking, rare-book-finding mercenary. Employed by Langella's publishing magnate, he is tasked with hunting down the two additional copies of The Nine Gates, a book also owned by Langella's character and which he wishes to authenticate.
Mystery ensues, largely owing to the subject matter of The Nine Gates, which is purported to be a manual for summoning the devil. Now if only a couple of these books weren't forgeries....
An awful lot of The Ninth Gate (based on the book The club Dumas) is better than you'd expect, but a lot of its potential is wasted on repetitious scenes and a meandering storyline (the film runs about 2 1/4 hours). The fistfight scenes are weak, the car chases dull. The ending is particularly annoying, essentially leaving the interpretation up to the audience (and thus making it unable for loudmouth critics to spoil).
However, Depp and Langella are fantastic, playing off one another with demonic flair. Imagine Depp's Sleepy Hollow character with a personality and you've got him spot-on. Seigner (aka Mrs. Roman Polanski), whom you might recognize from Polanski's Bitter Moon and Frantic, is starting to lose her credibility as a sex goddess, I will note.
Still, despite a little snickering in the audience, Polanski still pulls enough tricks out of his sleeve to recommend this film. It certainly isn't Chinatown, but it does carry a punch.
Burn, baby, burn.
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