From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Shutter Island - C+

Rated R for disturbing violent content, language and some nudity, 138 minutes

Scorsese, DiCaprio up to their usual tricks in "Shutter Island"

The Martin Scorsese-Leonardo DiCaprio teaming has always been an unusual, albeit interesting one. The provocative filmmaker behind "Raging Bull," "Mean Streets" and "Goodfellas" paired with the intense, mainstream actor from "Titanic" produces entertaining yet uneven results for the masses, and the modestly enjoyable but disjointed psychological thriller "Shutter Island" is no different. Their new drama is their weakest effort together and likely their most divisive: those that will be entertained and those who don't enjoy being tricked. I'm hesitant to say it, but "Shutter Island" is a disappointment considering its prominent cinematic pedigree.

Based on Dennis Lehane's 2003 best-selling novel of the same name, it's about two U.S. Marshals, Teddy (Di Caprio) and Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) who investigate a mental institution on a remote island after one of the patients goes missing. The patient's mysterious doctors (Ben Kingsley and Max Von Snydow) seem to be hiding something, and it doesn't help that during the investigation Teddy keeps having strange dreams about his deceased wife Dolores (Michelle Williams). Things aren't what they seem and Teddy isn't quite himself, either, and he's unsure whether he'll ever solve the case or if he'll always remain on Shutter Island.

"Shutter Island" is a mildly entertaining, often preposterous, far-flung mess of a movie full of wild tricks that Scorsese and company throw at you, and they throw plenty of them. On one hand, you'll be mildly engaged, even entertained by the first-rate production, but then that's really unfortunate given the disjointed, weak script that expects a tremendous amount from its audience, especially when the final twist is revealed at the end, making the movie feel like one big contrivance. So much has been thrown at you until this point you're not sure whether to believe it or not.

The more memorable aspects of "Shutter Island" comes from the eerie sets, a few stellar supporting players and the wildly pulsating cello score from Canadian rocker Robbie Robertson that you'll have in your head long after the film is over. Of the large cast, Michelle Williams of "Brokeback Mountain" makes the biggest impression as Teddy's loving but imbalanced wife, and Ruffalo is a warm presence as Teddy's partner. However, Oscar-winner Kingsley seems to phone it in here, while Von Snydow and Emily Mortimer are wasted in very brief parts; watch for Jackie Earle Haley and Patricia Clarkson in cameos that seem trimmed way down in the editing room.

As for "Shutter Island's" big star? DiCaprio certainly has his following (don't count me as one of them, though), and while his intensity works well in some scenes, he lacks empathy to truly pull off the part, particularly in the film's final scenes, which lack heft. And as usual with Scorsese, you'll find copious amounts of blood splattered throughout, which neither hurts nor helps the film and seems to be added only for shock effect.

It isn't surprising that "Shutter Island" has been delayed; it's a messy, mildly enjoyable but often baffling movie that audiences may not know what to do with. Even mediocre Scorsese is still watchable, which will bring out his and DiCaprio's fans out the first week, until they walk out disappointed and like most audiences, feel a little tricked.