France (dir. Roman Polanski)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Lena Olin, Emmanuelle Seigner, Barbara Jefford
Synopsis: A rare book dealer, while seeking out the last two copies of a demon text, gets drawn into a conspiracy with supernatural overtones.
Review: “The Ninth Gate” (also known as Johnny Depp’s satanic Eurotrip) is not a fantastic horror movie by any means, but it’s definitely a pretty solid neo-noir effort by Polanski. Sure nothing really happens in this film… at all, but we at least get to experience the wonderful aesthetics on display and all the classic trappings of an old-school style, suspense-laden, film noir.
For a film in which there is (literally!) no plot development over the course of 122 minutes, and in which there is a vague, if not, absolutely inexplicable, ending, it’s surprising to note how weirdly addictive the film is. It’s almost as though you just can’t stop watching, even though there really isn’t anything happening. Maybe it’s Johnny Depp’s on-screen presence or Polanski’s remarkable skill at completely engaging his audience, but you just get this feeling as though you just have to keep watching, even when things start making little, if any, sense at all.
This is truly one of the best examples of a neo-noir film aside from “Mulholland Drive”. All the classic tropes of a noir film are in this film: double-crossing characters, crime, murder, femme fatales, low-key lighting, hell even the music feels ripped out of a noir film from the 1940s. These film noir motifs are really the only thing this film has going for it.
It was sad to find out in the end that this movie really goes nowhere, especially considering that the premise – a shady rare book dealer (hottie Johnny Depp) searches Europe for an authentic copy of a satanic book – wasn’t bad at all. Yes, this is a stylish thriller and yes, this is your typical slow-burn Polanski film, however without a solid ending and no real “point” to the events of the film, it feels like there is no big pay off. At best, the ending and, to be frank, the entire film, is confusing and unsatisfactory. This is a film that is essentially a journey to nowhere, and I can’t even justify giving it a full review because other than commenting on the aesthetic appeal and the lack of a proper ending, there is very little for me to criticize or comment on. Let’s just leave it at Johnny Depp = hottest rare book dealer ever, shall we?