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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 Erik Childress

"Raimi Shows the Amateurs How It's Done"
4 stars

With murder mystery after serial killer tales coming each year in droves, audiences (hopefully) have become savvy enough to identify the common occurrences. The Scream trilogy dissected these similarities to perfection and we hold these facts to be self-evident in every one of these films where the killer wears the proverbial (or literal) mask. Sam Raimi's latest attempt at the genre, The Gift, is not an all-about exception to the rule, but it does prove to be a film school lesson for aspiring directors in how a good film can be born from familiar material.

As the latest subplot trend in this genre continues, we get a dab of the supernatural on top of our main course of murder and lies. Cate Blanchett stars as Annie Wilson, a single mother of three who performs psychic tarot card readings out of her home for the locals in her small Southern town. No money ever exchanges hands as Annie instead takes a cue from Sharon Stone's Muse and accepts gifts as mere gratuities.

One of her clients, Valerie Barksdale (Hilary Swank) has a husband, Donnie (Keanu Reeves) who likes to leave more purple around her eyes than she'd care to put on. He's also not very supportive of the "voodoo" appointments his wife makes with Annie, especially after she's advised to dump the piece of white trash. Another mentally unbalanced client, Buddy Cole (Giovanni Ribisi), begins to form a bond with Annie since she's the only one he feels he can trust with his paternal issues.

Annie has family problems of her own to worry about. While holding off the threats from Donnie, one of her sons must fight off the teasing at school. It's here that she meets school principal, Wayne Collins (Greg Kinnear) and his promiscuous Southern belle fiancée Jessica King (Katie Holmes) and senses that their relationship isn't destined for a happily ever after. And she's right, as soon enough Jessica has gone missing and the hunt is on for the truth.

This is classic mystery material and writers Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson milk it for every red herring imaginable. But they keep it all within the confines of a domestic melodrama with strong characters that make it all the more satisfying. Cate Blanchett is terrific as the strong but frail heroine. Keanu Reeves turns in one of his strongest performances hitting every mannerism right on the nose as the white trash-talking abuser. Giovanni Ribisi is effectively creepy and sympathetic while Kinnear, Holmes, Swank, Gary Cole and Michael Jeter offer solid supporting work.

Of course where there's a mystery, there's a culprit and unfortunately I was able to finger the baddie the moment I laid eyes on them. But to Raimi and his writers' credit, I continued to second-guess myself which is something that many directors have failed to do in the past. Usually we get a barrage of filmmaker finger pointing as the uncreative trickery of choice. You know the routine.

The first person is accused (NEVER the right one, except in Scream). Then there's further evidence to suggest otherwise. A second suspect is fingered because of a newly discovered connection to the victim, then they die. Then a new connection and a new suspect and another death and another until you're left with nothing but the lead character and the killer, who always acts as their friend, until our hero(ine) finds the murder weapon or a videotape or a typewriter. Finger pointing does go on in The Gift, but Raimi is smart enough to let the audience do the pointing. They have to do their own homework to solve the mystery. Raimi lays the clues and we are left to find them.

The Gift is not going to set anyone's world on fire. It's a solid thriller/drama with great performances that is effective while watching it, but doesn't over-twist the hell out of you. It's more Sling Blade than say, What Lies Beneath and its final-final twist is a bit lame and superfluous. Raimi and Thornton have both done far superior work in their respective fields (A Simple Plan and One False Move come to mind). And it's liable to get more press for it's surprising bit of celebrity nudity (also a bit inordinate, but still enjoyable from a male standpoint) than its age-old tale of lust, murder and psychic visions. But what your left with is a well-told suspenser with a quietly-reserved flash by a director, who even with classically familiar territory, still puts the amateurs to shame.

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originally posted: 01/19/01 18:06:28
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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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