Monday, July 12, 2010

Did the ending get lost in 'The Ninth Gate'?

In a naked attempt to establish myself as a Serious Film Reviewer, I am posting a review of a Roman Polanski movie. I want to be part of the impromptu web-wide celebration that that the convicted child rapist will continue walk around free. (Click here if you haven't heard the news yet.

Yes, Virginia (and Woody and Whoopie) you CAN be a convicted rapist and still be treated like a celebrity AND as if YOU were the victim.

You can even get your movies reviewed at Terror Titans, because I'm a Serious Film Reviewer Who Respects Great Artists (even if they are child-raping cowards who can't man up when it is time to face justice).

The Ninth Gate (1999)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Emmanuel Seigner, Lena Olin, and Frank Langella
Director: Roman Polanski
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

Dean Corso (Depp), a rare book dealer with a shady reputation, is hired by the mysterious Boris Balkan (Langella) to authenticate a copy of a rate book supposedly co-authored by Satan himself. As Corso goes about about his assignment, he is drawn into a web of conspiracy and murder as he gradually uncovers a secret that's been hidden for centuries. Will Corso uncover the occult secret of the Ninth Gate, or will he die trying?

"The Ninth Gate" is a stylish supernatural mystery tale. It's a well-acted film populated by eccentric characters and possessed with a stylish look and a perfectly paced story. It's a film that has almost all the elements of a great thriller, but the pieces that are lacking ultimately doom it.

First of all, the film is predictable. There are virtually no surprises as the film unfolds. The one point where the film MIGHT have take an unexpected turn--with the mysterious girl (Seigner) who may be Corso's only ally or the greatest threat he faces--ultimately ends up in the trite and tired territory. And that's a shame, because the physical presentation of The Girl is unusual and nearly unique in cinema, and, frankly as I would expect a supernatural being walking unnoticed upon the Earth to appear. (It's not a spoiler to reveal here that The Girl is a supernatural being; the film itself makes that clear fairly early on. It's a shame the filmmakers don't ultimately do something more interesting with her than they do.)

Second, and most damning, is the completely botched ending. After two hours of build-up, we get nothing. And I mean that literally. The mystery of the ninth gate is solved, the bad guys get theirs in some very satisfying ways, but the story of Dean Corso and his dark journey of discovery just sort of peters out. The film ends with no resolution of its main story--and not in a cheesy "hey kids, look for the sequel!" way. There is no question that this is a take that's over... the audience just doesn't get to know the ending. More so than any other film that I enjoyed every minute of (except the last minute), "The Ninth Gate" had me saying, "That's it?!" as the credits rolled.

If there ever was a movie that's spoiled by its ending, it's "The Ninth Gate." Unfortunately, the film is such a finely crafted effort that I can't even advise turning off the movie at a certain point to salvage it. Basically, this is a movie that ultimately adds up to nothing. That was probably the director and screen writer's intention, but that doesn't make it any better.


  1. I dunno 'bout that. The ending is pretty resolved. Langella's character is killed and Corso finds the last illustration and is given access to the Nine Gates which he enters. The End. I guess you could have a sequel that examine what happens to him once he goes in but that would be like doing a sequel to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. Do we really need to be told/shown what happens to Neary once he enters the spacecraft? Not really. Same goes for Corso and THE NINTH GATE.

  2. I agree with J.D. The only thing that I can draw from your comments is that you WANTED to be shown more, and that is a failing in regards to this movie. Take it as it is!

  3. Right... except at the end of "Close Encounters," I didn't feel like I needed more. So, I think that ending works while this one doesn't.

    And I'll have to take it as it is, unless George Lucas gets his hands on it! :D

    (I wonder why I forgot to respond to the first comment last year.)