A new trailer is out for Red Lights, the Robert De Niro movie where he…um…sits on a bed, and….like, truth is stranger than fiction, or something? Experts Josh and Joe hash it out in this week’s “Point/Counterpoint”.
Joe: Ok, first off, the whole idea is to base my judgment off of only the trailer. This means I will ignore what an IMDb search could give me regarding cast, director, plot, etc…So, that being said, based ONLY on this trailer for Red Lights – my opinion is: WHAT!? Seriously, the pacing of the trailer is nice. It’s not too fast and not too slow. It builds up a rhythm that keeps my attention. But the pay-off and reveal is nothing more than Robert De Niro looking creepy. My very first impression is that the movie will SUCK – because the trailer is a very cheap tease at NOTHING.
Josh: You mention a “tease” and that’s just what this is – a “teaser” trailer (industry speak). But yeah, there’s one shot; that’s it, that’s all they give us. But there’s also a lot of build-up. Three quarters of the trailer is increasingly suspenseful music over voiceless text narration that repeats buzz words and phrases (that curiously mirror the plots of recent popular movies), and give us De Niro, sitting on a bed, turning around. Yeah, it looks creepy, but he also looked creepy in Meet the Parents, and those were supposed to be funny movies (okay, the first one was pretty good). My problem with the trailer is that yes, it gives us NOTHING, but what does “Red Lights” mean? Are they street lights? Tailights? Is it a UFO thing? And what’s with the “coded” language in the background of all the text shots? It’ll probably play somewhere in the plot, but let’s be honest, the little hints we got DON’T justify me being extra curious to find what this movie is all about; it more just pisses me off that they held so much back.
Joe: But let’s not gloss over your mention of MEET THE PARENTS. Thanks to Bob’s (industry slang) recent choices of film we are left with a creepy De Niro that doesn’t really have any impact. Imagine, just for a minute, that we are back in the late 90′s. In a world without Meet the Parents or Rocky and Bullwinkle. A world where De Niro hasn’t tried to ANALYZE anything yet. In this world – right up to the boiling point of brilliance known as HEAT – De Niro had us by the balls. The guy could do no wrong. Sure, he had a few dogs leading up to Meet the Parents (Frankenstein? Yikes) and even found a way to still have a decent flick sneak out after – my opinion is that The Score (2001) & City by the Sea (2002) are his last good movies – but there is a reason and a point to all of this rambling. Here it is: Robert De Niro used to be able to hold enough weight (again, think back to the 90′s) to make a TEASER trailer like this actually work. And, as long as we are throwing our minds into the 90′s, we could argue that a TEASER trailer like this one for Red Lights would seriously play 10 times BETTER in 1996 than it does now, 15 years later. Why? Because of the “buzz words and phrases”
Josh: “No matter what you think you know…”
Joe: …that are sprinkled throughout…
Josh: “No matter what you believe in…”
Joe: …the creepy build up…
Josh: “The truth is the most dangerous illusion of all…”
Joe: …to an old man’s face. I mean, think about it – the text that tempts us in this teaser could easily be thrown in front of The Matirx all the way up to Inception and be selling the same movie. So, after a bunch of nonsense and rambling, I’m trying to drive home that this concept of a trailer could really work…but the words and phrases need to be (and this will be tough for hollywood writers) original AND we need a creepy face that belongs to an actor who could give us the “wow factor.” And since I don’t want to leave you assuming that I don’t have a plan I will tell you whose face could have given us the “wow factor” without us rolling our eyes: Michael Keaton. You throw Keaton’s mug up there and we’re all going to be whispering, “Was that Michael Keaton?” “Man, he looked creepy!” “What was the last movie he did?” “I want to see that movie!”
Josh: Oh Jesus, again with the Michael Keaton?! You know, Michael Keaton had a chance to be creepy in the 90′s and that was Beetlejuice. You know what, scratch that; I think the snowman in Jack Frost freaked me out more than anything. I mean, what they hell was that? On the first warm day of the year I’m going to have to watch my dad die all over again, in a horrible, agonizing, Raiders of the Lost Ark face-melting way? Yikes indeed! But back to De Niro, yes, you make a good point, how can we ever take him seriously again? Whether he’s a cry-baby mob boss, or appearing in an Eddie Murphy movie, he’s lost that edge, and “Travis Bickle” or “Jimmy Conway” seem like distant memories (not to mention a young “Vito Corleone,” which frankly, is unrecognizable at this point). Does that mean that Bob is gone for good? No, not at all. It’s just this trailer looks like a cheap thriller that’s been done before, and if it does end up that he’s some suspenseful, supernatural code breaker, then no thank you; I’ve already seen The DaVinci Code. I smell a paycheck movie…
Joe: Fine, fine, fine. You smell a paycheck movie. I smell a potentially GREAT movie that will NOT find an audience until word of mouth and DVD because they are trying to sell the film on the mug of De Niro – and all that will do is keep people from bucking up and taking a chance because they are still scarred from Hide and Seek.
Josh: And I say it’s going to suck, because they’re resorting to a gimmick in the TEASER trailer, and the only gimmick you need in a Robert De Niro film, is Bob’s fine acting. And besides, when’s the last time you enjoyed being teased by and old-ass Robert De Niro on a bed…?