Welcome to a He Said/ She Said review of films! We’re a married couple trying to navigate a shared Netflix queue while balancing our diverging tastes in movie genres. Sometimes we agree – and sometimes one of us loses our place in line!
Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) is an unscrupulous rare books dealer who’s motivated solely by money. He’s lured into a game of cat and mouse when a wealthy businessman, Boris Balkan (Frank Langella), hires him to validate the authenticity of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows. The hitch? The book contains nine engravings that, when properly interpreted, summon the Devil. Yikes!
The movie opens in dark fashion with the suicide of famed bibliophile Andrew Telfer (Willy Holt), who happened to have sold his copy of The Nine Gates (of which there are only three in existence) to Boris Balkan just days before. This proves to be a problem when Telfer’s widow Liana (Lena Olin) wants it back… badly.
She Said: I’m gonna skip the politics of the (Roman) Polanski angle.
He Said: [Joke/inappropriate comment redacted.]
She Said: Nope. We’re not going there. We’re here for Johnny Depp.
He Said: Wouldn’t you hate to get a call to learn you got a part in a movie, only to die in the first scene?
She Said: That would blow.
He Said: This Amish beer [via the awesome Beer of the Month Club] is really good. You don’t have to write that.
She Said: Umm, I kinda do because I love the irony. Amish beer. That must’ve been made during Rumspringa. Ah, here’s Depp before Jack Sparrow got his hooks into him. Pirate pun intended. The Keith Richards bromance hasn’t done Johnny any fashion favors either.
Those wacky Amish! [Image Credit]
He Said: Oh, but the rock-n-roll cred!
She Said: It’s true; hanging with Keith has given him more than P ever did. I like the repartee with Frank Langella. This is pretty interesting so far. I wonder how much of the rare books information is true.
He Said: Yeah, this is cool. It’s got the feel of an older movie, like an ode to Hitchcock. It’s more dialogue than action-driven. It’s definitely Polanski. All the characters have a questionable moral center.
She Said: Uh oh, who’s the mystery blonde?
He Said: I feel something brewing…
She Said: Maybe that’s just the beer in your belly. I hear Amish beer has special hallucinogenic properties.
He Said: Oh, please let that be true. Let this be the one true thing you tell me tonight.
She Said: Other than, “I love you.”
He Said: Aw. So is this when Johnny Depp was still making good movies, pre-cash grab?
She Said: Hey, that private island is not going to pay for itself.
You can not hide the hotness of vintage Depp.
The plot thickens as Corso continually runs into the same women [Emmanuelle Seigner, who’s character is only referred to as “The Girl”] despite trekking to Paris and Spain in an effort to compare the other two copies of the book. Is she his guardian angel? Another Nine Gates owner, Victor Fargas (Jack Taylor), meets a murderous end after he allows Dean to peruse his copy. The deaths starting adding up, and all reflect the engravings from the Devil’s handbook. Hmm, I see a theme coming together…
He Said: A lot of people are going to die.
She Said: I’m getting that feeling too. Polanski must be missing Rosemary’s Baby. He sure loves that devil theme. I love all the quite tension that’s building. By the way, I’m having a hard time believing Corso would smoke around these extremely rare books.
He Said: Yeah, it looks good though.
She Said: He’s getting more gray hair throughout the film. That’s definitely the work of the devil! Why can’t Johnny just leave his looks alone?
He Said: I think the devil and the angel will fight their battle around him.
She Said: I think the devil and angel are going to fight it out in our living room. Do you want to switch to wine?
He Said: Are you fucking kidding me?
She Said: Thanks for making my point.
He Said: Whom are we working for?
She Said: MovieBoozer! We rate movies by the pint. Insert shameless plug here! Okay, the costume designer receives an “epic fail.” Please take that poor woman [The Girl] out of that giant green trench coat she’s been wearing the entire film. And those eyebrows! I haven’t seen that kind of bulk since an 80’s Brooke Shields. Wow, what is up with that green screen action? Come on. Surely they have money to spare. It’s not like they’ve spent much on special effects. I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be another ode to the Hitchcock era, or if it’s just sloppy. Let’s go with ode.
He Said: This is no Disney franchise. You think if he wanted the book, he’d just go to the library.
She Said: You’re hilarious. No one goes to the library anymore! Books are delivered electronically.
That is one future I don’t want to read!
The third rare book owner, the fabulous Baroness Kessler (Barbara Jefford), also meets an untimely and creepy end. Corso’s life is now on the line as he races to put the nine engravings together before Balkan catches up with him and summons the Devil. Will good win out over evil? Will Johnny Depp have time to color his graying temples? We’re waiting with bated breath…
He Said: Wow, this reminds me so much of 21 Jump Street.
She Said: Down on Jump! Did you know Brad Pitt guest-starred on that show?
He Said: No!
She Said: Oh, yes. He probably slept with his female costar, whoever she was. Angelina Jolie may be the last, but she certainly wasn’t the first! Ah, are we getting our sex scene now?
He Said: Depp Does Eyebrows.
She Said: Dir-tay! Oh, the ringing phone. The spoiler of so much… At least there’s no texting in this film. That’s refreshing. Johnny Depp is one sexy book detective.
Are those caterpillars, or are you just happy to see me?
He Said: He makes reading look good. This is my version of the Da Vinci Code. This is Dan Brown, times a million.[The DVD starts to skip and freeze. Thanks, Netflix.]
He Said: Those assholes. Streaming movies full time makes more and more sense. Why does it always happen at such a crucial point? Do they plan it that way?[We experience a 30-minute delay while we baby the disc along to the end of the film.]
She Said: So, he ultimately earns the right to walk through the ninth gate?
He Said: Oh, who the fuck knows! It was still fun to watch, even though Netflix took the juice out of the end.
She Said: It was pretty enjoyable, with enough intrigue and schmaltz. I can’t understand why Polanski made it though. It seems kind of odd to take on this subject matter again when you’ve already made the most famous film of all time about the dangers of devil worship. [Indeed, the movie was considered a critical and commercial failure due to the unavoidable comparisons to Rosemary’s Baby.]
He Said: He’s an odd one!
Remember the end of Rosemary’s Baby? So nice, Polanski used it twice!
Nowhere near as iconic as Rosemary’s Baby, but a watchable nod to film noir nonetheless.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time you ponder the significance of Corso’s goatee. Is he the devil or just hot?
Take a Drink: every time there’s a poorly-shot green screen scene.
Take a Drink: every time someone references the occult.
Drink a Shot: during the orgy for rich people! Did someone say Bacchanalia?