You would have to be in your late forties or early fifties, at least, to remember the battle between James Randi and psychic Uri Geller in the '70s. Geller was the most famous psychic of all-time and making millions with a shtick that included his purported ability to bend metal with his mind. He was so good he got many skeptics and scientists to believe in his powers and made millions. But Randi never did buy it and openly challenged Geller to bend a spoon in a controlled environment which Geller refused.


Ironically it was the late Johnny Carson who punked Geller on the tonight show by providing his own controlled environment. Not long afterwards Geller disappeared from the scene.


There was another illusionist making his way into fame, Peter Popoff who was seriously into faith healing... to the tune of nearly five million bucks a year income from his believers. His devout followers actually believed he was curing their cancers and ridding their bodies of illness by just touching them. After all, he knew all about them! Geller called him out as well showing that Popoff used a sophisticated radio system to access their person history from the prayer cards everyone was given. Geller was also on Carson's show helping to debunk the scammers.

"Red Lights" is a fictionalized account of Randi vs Geller and Popoff saga with a slight modification. Writer - director Rodrigo Cortes combined the Geller and Popoff into one bogus character - Simon Silver portrayed by Robert DeNiro. He then changed Randi into Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and started the game of cat and mouse... sort of.


Matheson is the worlds greatest debunker and works for a university in a department that has lost most of it's funding. She has one assistant, Dr Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) who is grossly under-payed and over-qualified. But he is devoted to her work for whatever reasons.


They spend their time running around checking out various paranormal events and debunking them. This includes demonstrating the old rising table effect frequently staged during seances.


But their lives take a turn when Silver mysteriously comes out of a 30-year retirement to return to the stage and... making money. His retirement was shrouded in mystery when a nemesis died during one of Silver performances. Now, Silver feels the time is right for a return. And amazingly, Matheson wants to avoid challenging him like the plague.

This puzzles Buckley who wants to go right at Silver and prove he's a fake, but Matheson remains steadfast even while her department loses even more funding to a rival department headed by an inept professor (Toby Jones) looking for glory.


This pits Buckley against Silver regardless of Matheson's warnings with dire results.


During the course of the conflict, we learn how various scams are staged, just like Randi would do. DeNiro hams it up as the blind guru who will stoop to any level to maintain his aura of true power. Toby Jones is dead on as the sniveling, inept Professor Shackleton who is hell bent on a paranormal breakthrough.


Murphy, just by his nature, is intriguing as the debunking specialist. And even though Weaver seems occasionally disconnected from her role, is more than adequate. However, there are gaps that needed to be explained that were left blank. Mainly, what was the history between Matheson and Silver? Why was she so afraid of investigating him? Was she close to the dead de-bunker?


This leaves a film that is about closing a mystery... unclosed. Moreover, there was an expectation that the film was more about hauntings and ghosts than it really is.


"Red Lights" succeeds in resolving the mystery of all powerful, staged scam artists but leaves unresolved it's own plot mysteries.   -- GEOFF BURTON