For Reel

Split (2016)
February 28, 2017, 3:57 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: M. Night Shyamalan
3 Stars
splitMovie-goers and critics alike all but abandoned M. Night Shyamalan in 2006 with the release of Lady in the Water, which was the first clear sign that the Emperor had no clothes. That film, both self-serious and unabashedly goofy, was a mess of tones—it showed a filmmaker both aspiring for prestige and flirting with his proclivities towards camp. Split, on the otherhand, shows Shyamalan unapologetically submit into exploitation camp, complete with an abundance of ideas about sexuality and human psychology that would make Brian De Palma proud. The key to it all is James McAvoy’s performance as Kevin, a man with an elaborate array of personalities that range from a pedophile to a 9-year-old boy. Within mere seconds, McAvoy transitions from frightening to bizarrely hilarious—like the rest of the film, the primary concern of the performance is the variety of visceral thrills it can evoke. The actor’s best work comes when he plays personalities that are deliberately concealing something, giving just enough away with his mannerism that something is wrong (well, more than it already is). Shyamalan deals with questionable themes and much of the dialogue is laughably bad—as Kevin’s psychiatrist, Betty Buckley is the film’s heart, but she is saddled with both the most outlandish and tone-deaf lines. But Shyamalan once again shows that he can still be a satisfying provocateur when he wants to be—although he once seemed to aspire for critical approval, he now seems to embrace the fact that his heart might lie in this sort of satisfying off-season schlock.

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