If ever there was a success formula for a movie, it should be:
Bruce Willis + James McAvoy
x M Night Shyamalan
(+ Sarah Paulson x Samuel L. Jackson)
= #1 Box Office Winner!
Unfortunately, that’s not the case here, in what is the last segment of director Shyamalan’s Unbreakable and Split thriller trilogy. At least, at the core of this endeavor, the acting is predictably terrific, particularly given that the script and plot are questionable and chaotic. Every one of these top-tier actors rocks their completely unbelievable and morally indulgent characters, and rides the choppy waves of the storyline’s rough tide with the smoothness of an ace surfer.
So, with infinite acting, screenwriting and directing greatness in the house, all of which is sadly burdened with wonky and improbable backstories and motives, here are your guidelines for enjoying this unusual, unpredictable, inexplicably likable and sometimes accidentally hilarious movie.
- Suspend disbelief.
- Don’t judge the (laughable) dialogue.
- Believe in the main characters’ superhero experiences.
- Enjoy the ride.
Here’s the story: Staid and stoic grizzled dad hero David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is after a shadowy criminal who has kidnapped a cheerleading team and is holding them hostage in a warehouse in some grimy midtown Midwest city. Serial kidnapper/killer Kevin Wendell Crumb (a seriously creepy James McAvoy, in one of 24 different personalities) turns into literal “Beast” mode when Dunn shows up to rescue the women; from here it’s a contest between Good Cop and Controversial Schizophrenic Killer.
Somehow these two nutballs wind up in a mental facility, where wheelchair-bound, “Bride of Frankenstein”-haired Elijah “Mr. Glass” Price shows up in an adjacent prison cell room. Endlessly emotionally and intellectually badgered within their highly-guarded, close-range quarters by psychology counselor Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), the men verbally and physically battle out blind games of “I’m Better Than Him,” and “It’s His Fault.”
Beware: The middle of the film is pretty much a real-time, dragged-out therapy session in which Paulson tries and fails to convince each man that he is deluded about the identity each one knows is true. Two different sets of moviegoers in front of this reviewer, in the full-packed theater on a Tuesday early-evening screening, could be heard heatedly whispering, “I’m so confused!” and “I don’t understand what’s going on here!”
If you haven’t seen Unbreakable or Split, this whole mess definitely might be confusing. Even if you have seen the series’ original and sequel segments, it just might still be confusing. But, soldier on. Just watching these great actors tackle this terrible script with gusto and talent is, frankly, a bit of an event of beauty to behold. (Kind of like that one job you abhorred where you did your best anyway just to prove to yourself that you could improve and thrive in any situation.)
For Glass, the equation of: Great Actors x Great Director is, sadly, divided by Terrible Script. But if you’re looking for two hours to kill on a chilly, cloudy January/February afternoon or evening, what’s better than Bruce Willis + James McAvoy (x 24 personalities) x M. Night Shyamalan (+ Sarah Paulson x Samuel L. Jackson)? Not much, I’d venture.
Rating: PG-13 for violence including some bloody images, thematic elements, and language
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan
Runtime: 110 minutes