“The Gift” is a thriller, and by that I mean there’s a good amount of suspense that actually works. I found myself jumping in my seat more times in this than any of those crappy teen slasher movies – but there’s more to it than that.
Sam Raimi has created a solid and enjoyable, yet still flawed murder mystery in the deep south. The performances and cast read like a who’s who of hollywood and each turn in great jobs and do their work well – Keanu Reeves proves unnervingly good and chilling as the wife beater whilst Giovanni Ribisi is more likable than usual.
Hilary Swank does her best with a somewhat limited character and while I really like Katie Holmes she’s still got the face of a teenager – even if her body and dress sense is that of someone much older. And then there’s Cate whose always great, and while it’s not as rich a role as her earlier work she still gives it all she’s got (complete with a bit too much snot in some overly emotional scenes).
The cinematography and production values are also very high with both the look and most importantly the sound of the swampy quiet town proving extremely effective. Raimi and Co have got the atmosphere of the film fine-tuned to a tee, but its the core of the movie that’s sadly missing something.
First off there’s the pace which runs at “Eyes Wide Shut” style speed and plods long, especially in the beginning, with nothing much to do. The pace however doesn’t matter if the story is interesting and here in lies the main flaw. We’ve all grown up with murder mysteries and thus things like the surprise end twist and the red herrings we not only expect but anticipate.
That said the ending is easily guessable and so one feels cheated. If more time had been devoted to making the number of suspects larger and giving each one stronger motives then it would’ve been a lot better but as is its very formulaic, pedestrian and conventional. Its a solid movie no doubt, but its nothing spectacular and aside from the great cast and “feel to it”, it’d work much better as a TV movie than a theatrical film.