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Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.68%
Worth A Look43.86%
Average: 21.93%
Pretty Bad: 9.65%
Total Crap: 0.88%

9 reviews, 60 user ratings

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Gift, The (2001)
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Slightly Underrated Thriller that Manages to Grip"
4 stars

Unevenly scripted and about 15 minutes too long, this atmospheric thriller from director Sam Raimi is nonetheless successful in its effort to hold us from start to finish.

My first impression going into Sam Raimi's The Gift was that it was going to pull back from its hard-edged and grisly subject matter and dispel a too-pat, audience-friendly aura that likely would drain most of the fun out of the material. After all, this is what happened with Raimi's 1998 adaption of Scott B. Smith's brilliant novel A Simple Plan, in which the dark deeds of its central anti-hero were disappointingly toned down and cushioned by trumped-up contrivances -- like a witness that needed to be gotten rid of doing the shooting first so as to justify his or her death soon thereafter. To further justify my impression, Plan co-starred Billy Bob Thornton, who co-wrote the screenplay for The Gift and saw fit to approve Raimi again to take the directing reins. It is to my delight, however, to report that (flaws and shortcomings and all) the film emerges as a suspenseful and successful Gothic horror thriller that affects in all the pleasurable ways films of this genre are designed to.

Set in a small, sleepy Georgia town called Brixton, The Gift tells the tale of fortune teller Cate Blanchett becoming involved in a missing person's investigation that soon envelops and threatens her life. You see, elementary-school principal Greg Kinnear is engaged to beautiful town slut Katie Holmes, who's so crass as to screw another guy while attending an engagement party at the local country club. She goes missing the next night however, and the police, stumped for clues, consult Blanchett. A single mother of three who lost her husband to an explosion at the local plant, Blanchett has enough problems of her own as it is, what with trying to provide for her children and dodging the threats of wife-beating redneck Keanu Reeves, whose wife, Hilary Swank, is one her clients. Of course, Blanchett eventually relents and is able to give only murky clues as to Holmes' whereabouts. But when the police capture and the court convicts a suspect for the crime, Blanchett's problems are only really beginning, not only because she fears the real killer is still out there, but because she's likely the killer's next target.

Granted, the screenplay by Thornton and Tom Epperson (both of whom penned the excellent One False Move and the tedious A Family Thing) is full of plot holes and a couple of subplots that provide more in the way of padding, rather than propulsion, to the story. For instance, it doesn't take a genius to surmise that Reeves' crusading Southern Baptist baddie has been incorporated into things so as to provide an obvious suspect for the police. Further, schizophrenic auto mechanic Gionanni Ribisi's mental anguish arising from his father's molestation of him as a child sticks out too brazenly because it doesn't seem grounded in anything. But the screenplay's biggest boo-boo is not giving the audience enough logical suspects to where we could have some fun in deducing the evidence and deducting the identity of the killer. Instead of being thrown for a loop and having our expectations yanked out from underneath, our initial reading on things pretty much stays consistent. As in the 1998 Denzel Washington thriller The Bone Collector, the characters the filmmakers want us to suspect are too blatantly presented and developed to arise suspicion, so we know it can't be them. Nine times out of ten, it's the character who, instead of garnering attention, is usually the one receding into the background.

Still, The Gift is a slick and scary entertainment. Raimi has an iron-clad hold on the tricky material, managing to evoke a vivid, lived-in dailiness to the small-town setting while shrouding it with a disturbing, doom-laden atmosphere that got under my skin. While the 'Boo!' moments that make us jump from our seats are genuine and effective in their intent, it's the creepy, sustained texture that provides these scares with their power. We're already revved for the terror, so, like a master manipulator, Raimi builds the suspense logically, and respectfully, where the build-up to it plays as important a part as the pay-off. Even when the story meanders, you're still likely to be held because it exists as something more substantial and engrossing than an uncouthly engineered scare machine. (Raimi's work is far more admirable here than in last year's asinine, unsurprising Spider-Man.)

And what a cast! While the characters are never really more than two-dimensional, they are interesting and watchable, and the actors seem to be having a ball. Greg Kinnear, a highly varied performer, shows newfound focus and depth. Hilary Swank throws herself into a cliched role with conviction and zest. Michael Jeter, as a defense attorney, hams it up agreeably, especially when taking exception to Blanchett's supposed "gift" for premonitions in the courtroom. As for Keanu Reeves, he's uncommonly fine and physically imposing as a malicious SOB, a supposed man of devout religion who doesn't see violence as an inappropriate means to a supposedly righteous end. With his stupendous turn here and in The Watcher, Reeves may have just found his niche in villainous roles. As for Cate Blanchett, she continues to prove herself one of the top-five actresses of this day and age, providing the stabilizing force here that gives the film its emotional and dramatic kick. Most actresses would come off as ridiculous in this kind of mumbo-jumbo role; Blanchett, however, nails her every scene and rings nary a single false note. She's that rare dynamic talent worthy of her flattering press.

A pleasant surprise.

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originally posted: 02/16/03 03:31:40
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User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell good southern supernatural flick 4 stars
3/17/15 Dane Youssef A worthwhile southern supernatural noir. It's one of 2001's better. 5 stars
3/31/12 Sid Rumkowski Great film,has a "Slingblade" flavor to it. 5 stars
2/28/11 Monday Morning OK but just a little too slow. 3 stars
12/21/08 noops.... another good flick frm billy bob... Cate Blanchett as good as always 5 stars
2/11/07 Bitchflaps The inconsistent screenplay is rescued by skillful directing and compelling performances. 4 stars
1/10/07 David Pollastrini Katie Holmes is hot! Ditch tom! 3 stars
8/30/05 tatum "Murder, Steel Magnolias Wrote" 3 stars
7/28/05 jada good for tv viewing, wouldn't pay for it, cate great as usual 3 stars
6/22/04 teens the movie is great and now we have a remake of this film in india. 4 stars
3/05/04 john bale Some genuine shocks in this supernatural outing, thanks to Cate taking it seriously 4 stars
1/25/04 Elena So good except the awful, awful moronic ending that ruined everything. 4 stars
1/10/04 kaz morrison dream cast 5 stars
10/04/03 R.W. Welch Effectively done paranormal mystery, tho the ending is hard to buy. Top drawer acting. 4 stars
7/09/03 nr i loved this film it was great 5 stars
5/15/03 George Jung Tits! Now that I have your attention, this movie is perfect! Raimi is a perfect director. 5 stars
4/08/03 Shadaan Felfeli Its been a while since i saw the movie..but i recall enjoying it. Blanchet take a bow ! 4 stars
3/12/03 Blabity blah Great story telling. Blanchett/Reeves and Ribisi are EXCELLENT!! 5 stars
2/17/03 y2mckay Blanchett fantastic, not Raimi's best but good, Keanu actually acts. Oh, nice tits Katie 4 stars
12/29/02 Jack Sommersby Holmes' boobs are nice; Reeves is scary; Blanchett is superb! 4 stars
9/23/02 .Choadushouse. Ribisi is amazing. Holmes gives me a huge boner. And the movie gave me the chills. 4 stars
9/18/02 palaboy101 surprisingly good thriller 4 stars
8/13/02 blakers a great film 5 stars
7/13/02 Edfink Lombardo One of the year's creepiest. Katie Holmes is so hot. 5 stars
5/22/02 Phoenix Nice tities. 5 stars
2/28/02 Alan Smithee Katie Holmes' too-brief topless scene is all this overwrought mess has going for it. 2 stars
2/22/02 Jeff all around excellent movie 5 stars
1/13/02 Phil M. Afficianado When it is "not your kind of film" but you still like it, it's a good thing. 4 stars
1/06/02 Unanon actually managed to keep my attention! Bloody spooky at times too. 4 stars
12/22/01 Caiphn Thorton wrote this, Keanu was in it.. but it wasn't bad. 4 stars
11/27/01 sdfr ostensibly a "ghost" story, the film turns out to be much much more at the end. Good stuff 4 stars
10/17/01 Hum very close to being a very good movie 4 stars
9/13/01 Gary Masterful direction and a routinely great Blanchett, but poorly scripted and predictable. 2 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Creepiest fucking movie of the year! Too bad no one saw it! 5 stars
7/31/01 Monday Morning Thought Ribisi's/Reeves' characters were too over the top but film was still very good. 4 stars
7/22/01 Basil Giovanni Ribisi is excellent. 5 stars
7/20/01 greensweater boobies!! 4 stars
7/16/01 james shore there is to many parts were u r waitin to be scared 3 stars
5/04/01 Freak-77 Brilliant 5 stars
5/02/01 Geoff Only good things about this film. Katie Holmes showed us both of them. A truly lame effort. 2 stars
4/19/01 Tam A suspense thriller done well. Pretty good characterisation. 4 stars
3/27/01 JOSEPH LEEMAN katie homles was so hot in this movie 5 stars
3/20/01 Matthew Bartley Not very original but solidly done with the requisite shocks and scares 4 stars
3/04/01 Bob Cate Blanchett & Katie Holmes keep things intersting in this predictable but well-made crap 2 stars
2/24/01 Marie Very very boring. 1 stars
2/16/01 Rachem I really liked this flick... was sorta shocked that I did! 4 stars
2/13/01 HawthorneWingo Cate Blanchett character too much a freaking saint -- and the dead-husband subplot was crap 3 stars
2/12/01 Jake While not perfect, It was still astounding. Ribisi and Reeves were explosive! 5 stars
2/09/01 Keanuette Wonderfully suspenseful with a great all round cast, esp Keanu as Donnie *mo'fo* Barksdale 4 stars
2/09/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi A few minor ripoff vibes here and there, but why quibble?? Raimi & Co rules as always. 4 stars
2/09/01 Laura Pierce I took my hubby and he even liked it, so it has to be good! 5 stars
2/08/01 ObiWan Some genuinely exciting moments are in this film, but the ending ruins all credibility. 3 stars
2/07/01 Obi Wan Very entertaining, especially Katie Holmes...kinda reminded me of Beneath w/Pfeiffer & Ford 4 stars
1/25/01 Randy Director Holmes gets naked. 5 stars
1/24/01 JB Great fucking suspense. Keanu Reeves does a GREATJOB!!!! No BS! 5 stars
1/24/01 grunter You know Greg Kinnear did it from the moment he's introduced on screen 2 stars
1/22/01 Jupiter I'd go see any movie with Keanu Reeves in it. I wish he had been it this one more. 4 stars
1/21/01 earl duron well acted,effectively chilling yarn 4 stars
1/20/01 Buddy Acting is the best part. The ghost ending may suck, but Giovanni & Katie & Greg are cool 5 stars
1/09/01 Keanuette A very creepy supernatural thriller with good all round performances. KEANU is very good! 5 stars
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  19-Jan-2001 (R)


  12-Apr-2001 (M)

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