The trailers for Devil proclaim “From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan” which seems to be a purposeful attempt to disavow Shyamalan’s involvement in the directing, producing, and writing side of things after previous bombs (Lady in the Water, The Happening). The result: a company called the Night Chronicles, which produces films based on ideas from M. Night that are further developed by other individuals. Devil, the first of the Night Chronicles, overall manages to stay afloat (though at times some bailing is required).
In the film five strangers hop on an elevator together and once it locks up between floors, tensions flare. Detective Bowden and the building’s security watch the group devolve into bickering children through a security camera, only able to speak to them through the one way com system.
I say “devolve,” but there isn’t a transition for these people – as soon as they’re aboard the elevator they quickly reveal themselves to be stupid assholes. Continue reading
“What would you buy if you had a million dollars?” This is the type of hypothetical fantasizing we’ve all indulged in as children, but what if you actually won that million dollars?
Lucky follows the rare people who have won the lottery, varying from 5.5 to 22 million dollars in winnings. The effects of fame and fortune are disclosed by the winners in interview format. Some find it a curse they’re happy to spend until they’re again broke; others help their families or migrate to wealthier locales to fit in.
The general idea behind the film is immediately an attractive one: how do one of our fellow proles cope with becoming a part of the elite? In a brief interview with a lottery player, he explains that he gambles so, “I can actually be free.” Right there is a golden opportunity to explore our definition of “free” in a country that heralds itself as the uber-democracy and how capitalism and wealth play into that concept.
But director Jeffrey Blitz (Spellbound, Rocket Science) doesn’t follow these breadcrumbs. When former friends of lottery winners Kristine and Steve’s tell us they are envious of their bump up the class ladder, the film fails to dig in and ask why. Why are we envious of the wealthy? What does it mean to us to have money, to yearn for it? Instead of providing an insightful document on the U.S.’s religion of greenbacks, it takes hunger for cash for granted.
Sure, we meet the guy who keeps a lid on his expenditures, except the stay cats he feeds every night and the stripper friends he visits; we even see the literal ruin of a man due to the cash (his siblings hired a hit man so they could acquire the wealth). But Lucky doesn’t get the pick axe to the heart (so to speak) and leaves an aftertaste just slightly better than the Inside Edition clips it uses.
When a Vietnamese lottery winner’s wife stops the interview when it becomes too emotional, it stands in metaphorically for the film overall. It could go deeper, but maybe it hurts too much.
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Tagged Cinema, Class, Democracy, Documentary, Fate, Film, God, Inside Edition, Jeffrey Blitz, Lottery, Lottery Winners, Lucky, Movie, Spellbound, Theatre, themes, U.S., United States