Gothika Review

by Susan Granger (ssg722 AT aol DOT com)
November 20th, 2003

Susan Granger's review of "Gothika"(Warner Bros.)
    At the Woodward Penitentiary for Women, Dr. Miranda Grey (Oscar-winner Halle Berry) is a highly respected criminal psychologist who works with her husband (Charles S. Dutton), the chief administrator of the psychiatric ward. Driving home late one stormy night, she crashes her car to avoid hitting a distraught young girl whose body mysteriously bursts into flames. When she awakens, Miranda discovers she's incarcerated behind thick glass doors at Woodward and accused of brutally killing her husband. While she realizes that the ability to repress is a vital survival tool, the only people who will listen to her distorted rantings are a sympathetic former colleague, Dr. Pete Graham (Robert Downey Jr.), and a dangerously disturbed patient, Chloe (Penelope Cruz), who seems to be having similar difficulties distinguishing reality from fantasy.
    At first, Miranda claims, "I am a rational person. I don't believe in the paranormal and I don't believe in ghosts." Then, after a few lurid hallucinations, it comes down to: "I'm not deluded. I'm possessed." In-between are several silly dashes up and down the atmospheric labyrinth of corridors as she desperately tries to fit together the pieces of a bizarre psychological puzzle that ultimately involves ludicrous sadistic torture and a strange anima sola tattoo.
    Written by Sebastian Gutierrez, directed by France's Mathieu Kassovitz and photographed by Matthew Libatique, "Gothika" chooses style over substance. Unintentional laughter is evoked, and there's some heavy-duty irony watching seriously addicted actor Robert Downey Jr. dispensing drugs. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Gothika" loses its grip with a psychobabbling 4. "Logic is over-rated," Miranda declares. Not when it comes to ghost stories.

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