Directed By: Mathieu Kassovitz
Starring: Halle Berry, Penélope Cruz, Robert Downey Jr.
Tag line: "Because someone is dead doesn't mean they're gone"
Trivia: Halle Berry broke her arm filming a scene with Robert Downey Jr.
I hate to fall back on a tired, old cliche, but Gothika is all style and no substance, a movie in which the filmmakers expend far too much energy on visual tricks, and barely any at all on building a plausible story.
Dr. Miranda Grey (Halle Berry), a clinical psychologist, works in the mental ward of a Connecticut high-security prison. Frustrated by her most recent case, a deeply disturbed young woman named Chloe (Penelope Cruz), Miranda often consults with her husband, Doug (Charles S. Dutton), who's also the head of the prison's psych department, and her boss. While driving home alone from work one evening, Miranda nearly hits a young girl standing in the middle of the road. When she gets out of her car to investigate, something bizarre happens, causing Miranda to black out. Three days later, she finds herself in a cell at the prison, where her friend and colleague, Pete (Robert Downey Jr.), informs Miranda she's the prime suspect in the murder of her husband. Unable to recall anything after her encounter with the mysterious girl, Miranda must piece together the shattered remnants of her memory if she's to have any hope at all of discovering the truth.
Like a peacock showing off its feathers, Gothika struts out one gimmick after another in an attempt to spruce up it's flimsy tale of ghostly revenge. Take, for example, the group shower scene, where Miranda once again comes face-to-face with the young girl she encountered on the road. What could have been a frightening moment is instead disjointed and confusing, containing so many quick cuts and camera swoops that we have no idea what’s going on. As for the plot itself, it’s hard to overlook the contrivance of Miranda becoming an inmate in the very prison where she worked, and harder still to believe she’d be permitted to mingle with the general population, many of whom were patients of hers. But then, I don’t think the filmmakers expected us to focus on such details; with so many pretty things to look at, why bother with cohesion and logic?
In the end, director Mathieu Kassovitz and his crew undermine Gothika with a visual exuberance that’s far too overbearing, leaving the story to wither and die. And that’s just what it does.