Film Reviews:


(Rupert Wainwright, US, 1999)

This starts with a pre-credits sequence in Brazil. Opening credits that try just too hard to be cool out of the way, dire rock guitar music on the soundtrack and we're in New York/the USA. This mood-setting foreign locale followed by New York is the first of several similarities with The Exorcist - a film this aspires to be compared to (which is easy given the obvious parallels) but never comes close to matching. The subject matter is essentially the same thing - demonic possession. Although here it begins with the titular condition and then sprawls into other areas. Patricia Arquette plays the young woman unfortunate to be the focus of all this devilish activity. Gabriel Byrne is the sincere priest trying to help her. Jonathan Pryce portrays a shadowy Vatican 'official' in charge of investigating all cases of stigmata around the globe.

The three stars are all on good form here. Arquette is always watchable in spite of the material she's sometimes working with. Byrne has perhaps the most difficult task as his character is hampered by an element of cliche. Pryce on the other hand puts is hammy Bond villain in The World is Not Enough well behind him and reminds us that he can be a solid performer given the chance. Like many films, this worked far better as a teaser campaign than it does as a film. The main trailer was terrific stuff, promising possession featuring unpleasant demonic voices speaking in ancient (sub-titled) tongues, Vatican cover ups and even the possibility of the second coming of Christ. The film delivers to a certain extent, and any film that portrays the Vatican as a global corporation not entirely a bastion of transparency is going to get a favourable hearing from this reviewer. But former pop video director Rupert Wainwright (shouldn't there be a 'III' on the end of a name like that?) is overly concerned with the superficial visual potential of the plot rather than the more intellectual/cerebral path it also offers.

The result then (with an irritatingly 'hip' soundtrack by Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corrigan) may be polished but Stigmata would have been much better had it decided to focus its intentions more sharply. To be fair it's a well-paced and entertaining two hours but in all honesty this isn't so very different from the Schwarzenegger vehicle End of Days, although I'm sure all involved would strongly argue otherwise. 6/10

Rob Dyer (January 2002)

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