The praise being heaped on both The 40-Year-Old Virgin and this preposterous right-wing terrorist fantasy is more a comment on what a lousy year for movies 2005 has been than on any actual quality of these two movies themselves. At its absolute best, horror-meister Wes Craven’s shot at a straight thriller is a competent B-movie kept more or less afloat by the performances of the stars, who deserve better than this.
Saying that Red Eye is better than Craven’s last film, Cursed, isn’t much more of a compliment than saying that its last reel is funnier than anything in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, though both statements are perfectly true.
The clever trailer for Red-Eye proved to be exactly the trap I was afraid it might turn out to be. The whole business of having Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) and Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy) meet in romantic-comedy terms, only to have him turn out to be a terrorist-for-hire who is holding her father hostage, was a nice touch in the trailer. But you get to the movie already knowing it — and without the “surprise,” the opening is just marking time. Since the trailer also gives away how Lisa ultimately eludes her kidnapper, all that’s left is the question of why Jack Rippner (get it?) is holding Pop (Brian Cox) hostage, and seeing just how ridiculous the script can get in its attempts to cook up a thrilling ending.
Without giving too much away that the trailer doesn’t (hell, we already know Lisa jams a ballpoint pen into Jack’s throat), it can be revealed that Craven has moved away from the horror film in name only. He has a bad guy that can continue to go on a mayhem rampage regardless of whatever physical inconveniences are inflicted upon him. (This guy is so butch that he doesn’t even bleed — thanks to the stylish tourniquet around his neck and a PG-13 rating.) He has a heroine who has the typical horror-movie tendency to turn stupid as soon as she stuns the killer, affording him the chance to get up and come back after her. The differences between Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street opus and this are scarcely worth mentioning — except that the first Elm Street was about a million times better.
Considering that early synopses of the movie contain no references to international terrorists or the director of Homeland Security, the movie’s supposed topicality is probably just as grafted onto its tepid suspenser plot as it feels, though that’s still not Red-Eye’s biggest sin. That accolade goes to the fact that the movie delivers exactly what the trailer promises and nothing more, making seeing the film itself an exercise in redundancy. Rated PG-13 for language and some intense sequences of violence.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke