The Devils Tomb (2009)

Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr! Taryn Manning! Bill Moseley! Zack Ward! Randall "Pink" Floyd himself, Jason London! Ray Winstone! Ron fucking Perlman! Fallen angels, mad scientists, exotic desert locations. All directed by Sean Connerys actor turned director son, Jason. This has to be a recipe for the greatest film ever created, right? Then you remember Cuba Gooding Jr. made "Boat Trip" and reality comes crashing back down.

Gooding leads an elite group of mercenary soldiers recruited by Dr. Elisa Cardell (Valerie Cruz) to aid her in search of her father, a scientist who may have stumbled on to an ancient evil buried in a tomb in the desert, and if that sounds a little complicated in it's concept, you haven't seen anything yet! After spending way too much time hazing the new guy, Goodings group begins, what they think is the ho hum task of locating an old man. Quickly they realize that this is no simple recovery mission and neither Elisa or her father (Perlman) are what they seem. Plagued by flashbacks where he kills Ray Winstone (possibly as retaliation for the third act of Indy 4), Goodings Mack, has a hard time keeping it together. There's also a possessed priest, a couple  possessed scientists, Henry Rollins, some faux lesbianism, a ghost child, and even a naked chick who tries to fuck Zack Ward.

That right there is the fundamental issue with "The Devils Tomb." It tries to do far too much. The cast is way too big and the plot is just nonsensical at times. The entire first act is plagued by the fact that it needs to find things for people to do or say. Several conversations sound like writer Keith Kjornes said to himself, "Jason London hasn't said anything in a while, so lets have him say this even though he wasn't involved the conversation in the first place." Once the cast gets paired down, this issue abates and the film settles into a good second act, before ruining any good will it built with one of the most maddeningly bad third acts I've seen in a long time.

The shift in tone from a second rate, but entertaining 'Resident Evil' video game film, to a more serious religion/morality based straight horror pic really doesn't work. Fun characters get serious, smart characters get really, really stupid suddenly, which serves to advance the plot, but isn't really true to the characters. By the time Ron Perlman shows up in earnest and tries to save the Titanic, there too much water in the engine room. Kjornes tries to get smart and there are attempts at twists and misdirections, but Stevie Wonder could see most of them coming. By the big reveal at the end, most people, myself included have stopped caring.

Which is a shame. 'The Devils Tomb' does a lot of things well. The back story is an intriguing one. I couldn't help thinking as I'm watching Bill Moseley as a possessed professor, that that's the movie I want to see. The story of the actual expedition is far more entertaining, that watching London shoot at ghost children. (Perhaps we have a candidate for our next issue of "Flipping The Script"?)

Acting and directing wise the film is serviceable. The only pock mark is relative newcomer Cruz, who is fine when playing a tertiary or even a secondary character, but when it's her turn to step up and carry the film in the third act, she can't quite rise to the occasion. Perlman, and Moseley are all great in their very limited roles, it's a shame we couldn't get more of them, rather than what we got. Winstone only exists in Macks flashbacks and really serves no purpose other than to say, "Hey, it's Ray Winstone!"

'The Devils Tomb' is a film full of possibilities but the sum of all it's (potentially awesome) parts falls way short of the product it should have been. Check it out if you want to see a classic example of something that could have been. If film studies aren't your thing, then skip it.

** out of *****

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