Set in a small rural town filled with slightly offbeat characters, The Gift begins much like you would expect a sequel to Sling Blade to start. Though not a sequel, Sling Blade's writer/director/star Billy Bob Thornton did co-write this supernatural thriller, and his creative style can be identified throughout the film.
The plot centers on Anne Wilson, played by Cate Blanchett, who tells fortunes for a living. This extra sensory perception is the 'gift' alluded to in the film's title. Anne reads cards and gives advice to the people who come to her for help. She also has visions, premonitions, and, in what has quicky become Hollywood cliche, she sees dead people. Anne soon find herself involved in a murder investigation, which leads her into much danger. That reminds me of an old joke that goes something like "A guy walks up and knocks on a psychic's door. The psychic asks, 'Who is it?', so the guy just walks away." Couldn't Anne, with her 'gift', have seen all this trouble coming? Apparently not, since she's soon in over her head with angry people both living and dead.
Director Sam Raimi, of Evil Dead fame, does a good job of creating a creepy atmosphere, but the plot was unpredictably predictable. Hmm, perhaps I should clarify that. This is one of those murder mysteries where the script tries to make you believe one person was the killer, when they actually weren't. Or were they? Once you're completely confused, the real killer is finally revealed. You are then able to see how logical it all was that this person did it, and you kick yourself for not having figured it out sooner. I say it tries to do that, but it fails. I knew who the murderer would turn out to be, even before the killing took place, and I claim no super powers of that nature.
Joining Blanchett in the film are many other well known stars, none of whom really act to the level they are capable of, except for perhaps Keanu Reeves. It's as though Raimi wanted to maintain an ensemble feeling, with no one other than Anne standing apart from the crowd, making it more difficult to pick out the killer. Again, this tactic doesn't really work.
Lastly, the law enforcement officers in this film are portrayed as complete idiots, caring more about where their next doughnut and coffee are coming from than about solving the case. Someone needs to tell these Hollywood moviemakers that not all cops are like the ones found in Los Angeles!
So, chalk up another not-so-super supernatural thriller. If you should happen to see The Gift playing at a theatre near you, take my advice and just walk away, because it's the thought that counts and this is one gift not worth receiving.
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Keanu Reeves, Giovanni Ribisi,
Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank, Katie Holmes, Michael Jeter
Rated: R (Violence / Language / Nudity)
Running Time: 111 Min.