Mark Reviews Movies

Looking Glass


1.5 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Tim Hunter

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Robin Tunney, Marc Blucas, Ernie Lively, Kassia Conway, Bill Bolender, Jacque Gray, Barry Jay Minoff 

MPAA Rating: R (for sexual content, violence and language)

Running Time: 1:43

Release Date: 2/16/18 (limited)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | February 15, 2018

Jerry Rapp's screenplay for Looking Glass is an exercise in seeing how many creepy elements can be added to a story without finding a way to connect them. Surely, there's some underlying conspiracy or basic, small-town suspicion that ties the movie's various, creepy elements together, but the connections that are overtly made here seem like an afterthought. It's an atmospheric movie, to be sure—filled with unseemly things happening behind closed doors, characters whose motives are mostly unclear but clearly hostile, and a protagonist who finds himself drawn to the darker side of whatever is happening.

We have a seemingly ordinary motel in a remote, small town in the middle of the desert, where the clients mostly come and go without much to-do. There is a regular customer in the person of a truck driver who brings prostitutes to briefly eliminate the loneliness of the road. Across the street, there's a gas station, where the owner seems to keep his eye on every person who arrives, as well as a team of mechanics who seem to wait for the chance to say something cryptic to anyone who passes. Not too long ago, there was some trouble involving a young woman, whose body was discovered in the pool.

This incident, we learn, occurred around the time that Ray (Nicolas Cage) first arrived at the motel about a year before the events of the movie. He was looking to buy the place in order to get a new start for himself and his wife Maggie (Robin Tunney), whose daughter died in a fall while the girl's parents were distracted doing other things. Now, he has bought the motel from the mysterious Ben (Bill Bolender), who vanishes without a trace after the couple arrives at their new business. Nobody thinks too much of the previous owner's disappearance. This is a routine in this town: People arrive out of nowhere and leave, presumably, to the nowhere from whence they came.

The story's primary mystery, it seems, is what has happened and is happening in room 10—the one that's farthest from the motel office, out of sight and earshot of anyone nearby, and the favorite of the truck-driving regular and a couple of strangers. It seems that way, until we learn of the death of the young woman. The locals hint that it was a suicide, but Howard (Marc Blucas), the local Sheriff, tells another story. The woman couldn't possibly have made it to the pool on her own, considering that was sliced up the torso.

There is, obviously, a lot happening here, and the major flaw of the movie is that we're never quite certain which of the story's various mysteries is the one that really matters. We have to assume that the murder of the woman is the central one, but by the time we learn about that horrific crime, the movie has given us at least four other enigmas over which to puzzle.

We have Tommy (Ernie Lively), the truck driver, who really like room 10, gives Ray a "gratuity" to keep his mouth shut, and seems unreasonably upset when his favorite room is already occupied. There's the eventual occupant of the room, a quiet woman (played by Jacque Gray) who catches Ray's eye and has a regular visitor. The Sheriff seems a bit too eager to know what happened to Ben, whose disappearance is itself a mystery, and those guys at the gas station sure do seem like trouble waiting to happen.

All of this is loosely tied together by Ray's discovery of a secret crawlspace in the motel, which gives him access to a two-way mirror in room 10. He becomes a hesitant voyeur of the mystery woman, since his relationship with Maggie is a bit shaky at the moment. From his peeping, even more mysteries arise: the identity of the woman's regular visitor, a pair of legs watching some kinky things happening in the room, and what Ben might have seen that would turn him into a vanishing act.

Director Tim Hunter has taken the ambiance of Rapp's screenplay and given the movie an appropriately shadowy look to go along with all the shady dealings going on here. It's enough to keep us invested in the perplexing atmosphere for a while. At a certain point, though, one starts wondering what the core mystery is, how all of these elements are tied together (The short answer is that they aren't), and why we're supposed to find Ray a sympathetic enough figure to dismiss his own creepy and oftentimes dimwitted behavior. Instead of an actual mystery, Looking Glass comes across as a hodgepodge of mysterious components.

Copyright © 2018 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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