Friday, March 11, 2011

'The Reaping' nets a thin harvest

The Reaping (2007)
Starring: Hilary Swank, Idris Elba, David Morrissy, AnnaSophia Robb, and Stephen Rae
Direector: Stephen Hopkins
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

A former missionary turned college professor-and-professional-debunker-of-miracles Katherine (Swank) is called to an isolated Louisanna village to provide a scientific explanation for a series of events that mirror the Ten Plagues of Egypt as depicted in the Old Testament. As scientific explanations start to wear thin, Katherine and her deeply religious assistant (Elba) uncover signs that something supernatural is indeed happening in the town--something that may well be of Biblical proportions--and it centers around a 12 year-old girl (Robb). But is she a savior or a destroyer?

"The Reaping" is a fairly standard, paint-by-numbers supernatural thriller with religious themes that will you'll derive enjoyment from in direct proportion to the number of other films in this vein that you've seen. There's not much here that hasn't been done better in other films, although it is well enough paced, decently acted, and decently executed on the technical level. (It does feature one of the best "When Bugs Attack" moments ever put on film, and this sequence is when the film is at its best and its scariest.)

Like so many other modern thrillers, however, its fatal weakness lies with the script. It's not only unoriginal, but its shallow both emotionally and spiritually. The viewer never experiences the pain and horror that caused Katherine to lose her faith in God, and her rediscovery of it is likewise nothing that we feel any emotional investment in. (It's necessary for the plot, but we never get close enough to her--or any of the characters, really--to feel the process happening.)

The film is also not helped by the way it devolves into a special effects extravaganza where the viewer feels even more detached from the action and the characters than at any previous point in the film. Then, just to botch the finale completely, we're treated to a lame "twist-ending" denouement instead of some sort of emotional wrap-up to the story.

"The Reaping" rates a low 5 on the 0 to 10 scale... it's watchable, but there are probably other films you'd be better off spending your time on. It did hold my interest throughout... although I'm not sure if this was to the story's credit or Hilary Swank's tight tanktops and flimsy nightgowns.