Ghost in the Shell

The Jacket and The Grudge

I shan’t belabor the point — apples and oranges and all that stuff — but how in the hell do The Jacket and The Grudge score roughly the same with critics?

The Jacket is by no means perfect. A bizarre synthesis of Jacob’s Ladder, Donnie Darko, and It’s a Wonderful Life (!), it’s just a touch tired, and the bittersweet tone of its finale is jarringly out-of-place. Director John Maybury is obviously in love with the effect of entering Adrien Brody’s brain through his eye, but it gets old quickly and isn’t very effective to begin with.

Yet it’s a satisfying work — compact, provocative, and just off enough to keep the audience from ever getting comfortable in its milieu. Brody’s central performance as a Gulf War vet/mental patient/possible murderer/time traveler/dead man is nicely human despite barely existing as a fleshed-out character, and Kris Kristofferson finds a surprising middle ground between sadist and earnest healer.

As for The Grudge, Takashi Shimizu’s American re-make of his own movie, it’s the polar opposite of The Jacket; the latter tries to cram two or three ambitious movies into less than two hours, while the former tries to sustain a feature with ... two or three ideas, and that’s being generous. It’s almost as if the writers used a horror-movie starter kit to make the damned thing and forgot to fill in the blanks. The Grudge is a ghost in search of a story, a great example of pure cinema. And I don’t mean that as a compliment; it might be the emptiest thing I’ve ever seen.

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