The Gift review by Tom Blain

I am always looking for that diamond in the rough. That hidden gem in aisles of crap videos (and now DVD). Something that deserves a viewing; something that few have seen. One attempt a few years back was a movie (now airing on Comedy Central) called Breakfast of Champions. It was an indy-type film, it had Bruce Willis and Nick Nolte and it was based off of a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Sounded pretty tempting, so I gave it a whirl. It was garbage. But that is another review for another day. The current hopeful diamond is a little DVD I scrounged up at the local library called The Gift. What pulled me to The Gift at first was the names (Cate Blanchett, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinnear Hilary Swank and yes even Keanu Reeves). The box itself wasn't too entertaining. It was just a box with about five familiar movie faces on it, all looking concerned and stairing off in opposite directions. But I probed deeper. The director was Sam "Evil Dead/Spiderman" Raimi and the writer was none other than Billy Bob Thornton it was a mystery, some pyschic mumbo jumbo. Ok.. we have a potential winner.

So on with the movie. The Gift refers to the main character Annie's (Cate Blanchett) ability to see the future events as well as some events from the past. She is a bit of a local fortune teller in a po-dunk Southern town that is still afraid of ghosts and goblins. Her clients include people with real problems. Problems they should probalby seek real help for. These are things that should be dealt with immediately, not things in their future. One of her main clients is Buddy Cole (played very convincingly by Giovanni Ribisi who really impressed me in this film). Buddy teaders between friendly and dangerous. He likes Annie because she is one of his few friends, but you could tell this guy could snap at a moments notice.

Another one of her clients is an ultra white-trashy Valerie Barksdale (Hilary Swank). She is a Springer project who gets wailed on by wife beater Donnie Barksdale (Keanu Reeves). Donnie also wants to beat up Annie who tries to talk some sense into Valerie. He is a chaming fellow. So there is some good ole fashioned feudin' going on.

Due to her psychic powers she does get pulled into a police investigation of the missing and luscious Jessica King (played by the lucsious Katie Holmes). And wa-la! A body turns up in ole Donnie Barksdales pond. How convienient for Annie. The rest of the movie is involves Annie uncracking the real mystery of what happened to Jessica King and who really killed her.

The Gift was not a bad little movie. Sam Raimi put together a really suspenseful, supernatural film. There are some interesting and eerie scenes when Annie goes into her pyschic dreams and sees ghosts and dead bodies in trees. Zoiks! And the cinematographer does a good job of capturing the Southern charm of the area. Plenty of Spanish moss, old willows, and cypress trees growning in the bayo (I think they are cypress anyway; prove me wrong!)

And the acting was phenomenal. I mentioned Giovanni Ribisi above. Cate Blanchett is damn good as always. You always get a great performance from her. Hilary Swank looked and sounded like white trash. I was convinced; who knows maybe she is (just kidding Hil, you know I love you when you look like a chick). Keanu wasn't even that bad. He played the silly, redneck full of rage part pretty well; at least as good as Keanu possibly could. They had Lumberg from Office Space play a lawyer. "Yeeaaaaah, I am gonna have to ask for a write of habeas corpus. Yeaaaah..." Oh and don't let me forget. Katie Holmes gets naked. Thats right. Worth the price of admission.

But as good as all that was I don't think I would see it again. It was fun to watch the first time, but nothing I would seek out for a second watching and its not a film I would add to my library. For all of the good things that happened it followed a standard modern day mystery/thriller (very close to What Lies Beneath and the Sixth Sense) so it wasn't to original in that sense. The begining (first 30-40 minutes) was pretty slow. A lot of setup of the backgrounds of the characters before the action took place. But overall I would say it is not the diamond I hoped it would be, but worth the one rent.




6 out of 10 Jackasses
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