By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Two Beers) –
Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) is a young English teacher in a small Maine town who is put into a coma after a tragic accident. Upon awakening, he finds that his girlfriend has moved on, and five years have passed him by. He also soon discovers that he’s gained psychic abilities. Johnny can look into the past and future of anyone whose hand he touches. His abilities allow him to warn a nurse of a house fire in which her daughter could have died, as well as provide his doctor with the knowledge that his mother did not die in the Holocaust. Soon enough, word of his powers spread throughout the area, and is met with a combination of fear and opportunism.
Which mostly involves Cowbell…
Director David Cronenberg is nothing if not unpredictable, at a time in his career when he was best known for films which emphasized gory thrills and violence, audiences were thrown off guard with this surprisingly sensitive portrayal of psychic powers. Cronenberg did manage to mix the film with just enough thrills to balance the narrative but overall, this is a movie that emphasizes character development over action.
Martin Sheen plays Gregg Stillson, a Senatorial candidate whose frenetic speeches have caught fire in the press. Stillson’s over the top behavior is either a sign of brilliance or madness, and maybe both, so it is unsurprising that he has eyes on the presidency…
Which begs the question, is Aaron Sorkin a psychic?
Christopher Walken delivers an incomparably solid performance, his physicality deteriorating slowly over the course of the film, as his power of second-sight takes its toll. Walken is known for his eccentric and often over the top characters, particularly in recent years, so it might surprise modern audiences to know that he is more than capable of smaller, more complex acting.
“My subtlety is on fire!”
In spite of the fairly believable and realistic seeming portrayal of the phenomena, there are several moments within the film which have the campy feel of a B-Movie. The actress who plays Johnny’s mother for instance, and the serial killer character. Thankfully these distractions are short lived, but they can occasionally throw off the film’s momentum.
A solid thriller with excellent performances, particularly from Christopher Walken
Take a Drink: whenever Walken has a vision
Take a Drink: when someone doesn’t believe him
Do a Shot: for Steven King tropes (examples listed below)
- Takes place in Maine
- Hiding a dark secret
- Bittersweet denouement
- Incompetent authority figures