August 21, 2008

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Mirrors (R)
Kiefer Sutherland keeps the ďdamn itĒ drinking game alive in Mirrors, an unremarkable but intensely acted horror movie about spooky spooky mirrors.

Ben (Sutherland) is a former/maybe-future New York City police officer whoís trying to pull his life back together after a shooting that led to his suspension, his drunkenness, his separation from his family and his need for crashing on his sister Angelaís (Amy Smart) couch. Heís decided to crawl his way back to some kind of normal life in part by getting a job to hold him over until heís reinstated with the police department. His new job, naturally, draws on the skills of his old job while not being (he hopes) too taxing; heís been hired to work as a security guard at the burned out shell of a giant department store in the heart of the city. Due to litigation, he learns on his first day, nothingís been done to it in the five years since the fire, so the creepy charred mannequins still fill the blackened space, which also has the requisite number of birds, just waiting to flap up and scare unsuspecting new security guards with a shaky hold on sobriety. He also learns that before it was a department store, the massive building was a hospital with a sizeable mental patient ward. (Of course it was.)

On his first day, Ben notices that this dark, shadow-filled manifestation of his anxieties also happens to have large, perfectly clean mirrors. The security guard Ben replaced liked to polish them, the day guard tells Ben. (Oh, did I mention that Benís the night guard? Did I have to?) On his first night, Ben sees why that guard might have been so fascinated with the mirrors: spooky images appear in them, and not just grizzled ex-cops with anger management issues. Sometimes itís a handprint that canít be wiped off, sometimes itís a crack that appears and disappears suddenly, sometimes itís a woman whoís screaming her head off as she burns to death. Itís that last one, you might imagine, that really freaks Ben out. But then, even freakier, he realizes itís not just the mirrors at the store but now all mirrors in his life that reflect these horrible images. Ben realizes that these mirrors arenít just going after him, theyíre going after his sister and his wife (Paula Patton) and kids (Cameron Boyce, Erica Gluck) too.

Let the ďdamn it!Ēs begin.

So itís not a race against a ticking clock and itís not terrorists trying to blow up some part of the country, but Mirrors is still just a variant on the MacGyver-ish action of 24 and Ben is just a down-at-his-heels Jack Bauer. Just like when heís in save-the-world mode on 24, Sutherland (here in save-the-four-secondary-characters mode) is slamming his fist into things and holding people at gun point to get them to help him save the day. I didnít particularly care about the ghost story here (and, once at the end, the resolution doesnít entirely make sense with the explanation of the big bad) but it was fun to see the hammy Sutherland approach to action again. C

Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief nudity. Directed by Alexandre Aja and written by Aja and Gregory Levasseur (from a Korean movie by Sung-ho Kim), Mirrors is an hour and 50 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by 20th Century Fox.