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Simon Read [Celluloid 05.01.17] scifi action thriller

The Shadow Effect is a sci-fi, action-thriller directed by Obin Olson and Amariah Olson, and starring Cam Gigandet. It tells the story of Gabe, the proprietor of a small-town diner, whose nightly dreams of deadly assassinations and general mayhem cause some distress when he reads in the newspaper about similar events taking place in real-life. Migraine headaches and strange 'episodes' find Gabe seeking help from sinister psychiatrist, Dr. Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Meanwhile, local Sheriff Hodge (Michael Biehn) begins to suspect Gabe as some kind of international hitman.

The Shadow Effect follows a thoroughly well-worn path, that of the man suffering memory-loss, depersonalization and freaky flashbacks, only to find himself at the centre of a vast conspiracy. It's a busy film, with plenty of well-staged action/chase sequences, gunfights, explosions, angry shouting and tense confrontations between hero and villain, but it doesn't offer much in the way of originality. It is a competently made film, definitely 'one for the boys', but there are many missed opportunities here, and as such it feels destined to find a small audience on dvd or vod.

As our bewildered hero, Gigandet has little to work with, and this is probably for the best, as he doesn't seem to be a terribly strong actor - grunting his way through a predictable script and story, occasionally pausing to stare at his reflection in a mirror and whisper, "Am I real?" before punching a wall or throwing a clock or something. Gabe's wife, Brinn, is played by Brit Shaw, who has the unenviable task of attempting to make this marriage appear convincing, but in the end all they can muster is a brief argument about Gabe's mood-swings, before indulging in some awkward sex on a radiator (I'm pretty sure this is how all marriages work). The scenes between these two actors reflect just how pedestrian the writing is here, and their awkward interactions serve only to highlight the lack of chemistry between the characters.

As far as direction goes, the Olsons provide a steady, consistent mix of handheld shots and fast-edits for fight scenes (including some slightly dodgy sub-Gun Kata), with occasional swooping crane shots for establishing scenes; dramatic moments between characters are rather traditionally staged, but overall the film is fairly well-crafted. On the other hand, the dull, digital palette, all greys and greens, does feel bland and typical of the contemporary low-budget actioner, and the film doesn't look particularly interesting or pleasant. The film is accompanied by a fairly routine, percussion-based score, and while it fits well enough with all the action and fighting, it certainly doesn't stay with you.

But what of Rhys Meyers and Biehn? Well, Meyers spends most of his time sitting behind a desk offering vague theories about the subconscious, before inevitably revealing himself as a cog in a conspiracy involving cloning and resurrecting the dead. There's something about the war in Iraq thrown in to give the film a 'political edge', but this stuff really just writes itself. Meyer's can be good (err, I think?) but this is another paycheque-role for an actor whose career seemed to dry up several years ago. Similarly, Biehn, though more active (he gets to run around with a gun) seems to be enjoying himself a little too much as a good-cop-turned-bad, flashing the odd evil grin, but bringing little conviction to an undemanding, underwritten role.

It is unfair, sometimes, to compare a mediocre film to a great one, but that's film criticism for you. So, let's consider the slow-burn approach taken by Cronenberg in his similarly themed A History of Violence; the melancholic tone and sympathetic characterisation contained in Duncan Jones's Moon, also dealing with identity and the ethics of cloning; or the mind-bending chronological trickery employed by Christopher Nolan in Memento, a film dealing with amnesia and revenge. The Shadow Effect doesn't aim as high as these other movies, but perhaps if it had offered something more, had had less predictable ambitions than a simple series of repetitive action set-pieces, then it might have transcended its B-movie roots.

But it didn't, so it doesn't.

The Shadow Effect is available on DVD, VOD and in demand on May 2.

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Docplacer (5 years ago) Reply

Rhys Meyers career is dried up? Really!?! Please informa the makers of The Vikings - they seem to think he's pretty great!


projectcyclops (5 years ago) Reply

I'm suggesting that for an actor whose career began with headlining roles in films by Todd Haynes and Woody Allen, this kind of shady gig is a bit of a departure. He certainly doesn't seem to be putting much effort in. Believe it or not, I am actually a fan of his, but this not his best work.

I'm afraid I've never seen or heard of 'The Vikings', but it's good to hear he's getting work in TV.


Genius (5 years ago) Reply

The Vikings
Is Kick Ass! and I want to say that my Nordic Ancestors are making huge come back in the world! Vikings everywhere! Games, Films, TV, you name it!

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