Josh Bell

"Logic is overrated," Dr. Miranda Grey (Halle Berry) says near the end of Gothika, as she vanquishes the bad guy and solves the mystery (like you thought she wouldn't?). It's a nice summation for a B-level thriller with giant plot holes and lazy direction that pretends it's a real movie by casting A-list stars and getting a foreign art-house director to helm it.

You have to wonder why after winning an Oscar that Halle Berry would sign on to play Miranda, a prison psychiatrist who wakes three days after a car accident to discover she's incarcerated in the very place she once worked, accused of murdering her husband. It's a basic horror-movie role, and while Berry does a fine job screaming and running from apparitions as she tries to figure out what happened, you can't help but feel it's beneath her. Also slumming is Robert Downey Jr., as Miranda's colleague, who helps her clear her name. Downey has got more of an excuse; with his stints in rehab, he's got to take whatever roles he can get. Penelope Cruz completes the triumvirate, and she's the only one who looks at home, chewing scenery as a former patient of Miranda's who takes the doctor under her wing on the inside.

Guiding it all is another unlikely choice, French actor and director Mathieu Kassovitz, heading up his first English-language project (although he's acted in English-language films before). Kassovitz is better known for arty fare like his 1995 film Hate, a gritty exploration of Parisian street life. With Gothika, he seems to be simply collecting a paycheck and laying the groundwork for future American movies.

Perhaps uninspired by Sebastian Gutierrez's confusing and inconsistent screenplay, Kassovitz shoots the entire film like he's got ADD, swirling the camera all over and setting up odd angles that seem meant to create atmosphere but only distract from the story and performances. While Gutierrez makes a halfhearted attempt at depth with the whole "doctor becomes the patient" theme, whatever insights he may have are lost under the numerous illogical plot twists and Kassovitz's spastic direction. In the end, loose ends are left hanging and Berry's Oscar is left wondering what she was thinking. Logic is overrated, indeed.

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