* (out of 5)
April 5, 2007
Hilary Swank as KATHERINE WINTER
David Morrissey as DOUG
Idris Elba as BEN
AnnaSophia Robb as LOREN MCCONNELL
Stephen Rea as FATHER COSTIGAN
William Ragsdale as SHERIFF CADE
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Stephen Hopkins
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
In the weeks leading up to the release of “The Reaping,” I just couldn’t help making the crass and thoroughly uncalled-for pun of the film’s title by calling it “The Raping.” (Not funny and offensive, I know, but bear with me. I actually have a point.)
After being chided one too many times by the wife for saying this in front of the kiddies, I actually saw the film, and I have to say that what I thought was once uncalled-for is now strangely appropriate. Not only does a major plot point hinge on a pseudo-drunken rape scene, but I found myself feeling violated and defeated by the entire movie.
“The Reaping” tells the story of a former missionary named Katherine Winter (Hilary Swank) who makes a living debunking miracles. She’s called down to a small town in Louisiana to discover a scientific explanation for a series of Biblical plagues that seem to be haunting the town. Well… she’s called down after one plague – the river turning to blood – and the other nine follow once she gets there.
As she investigates the town being overrun by dead frogs, lice, locusts and other gross-out events, she tracks the occurrences down to a young girl named Loren (Anna Sophia Robb). Rumor has it that this girl is the spawn of the devil, bred by a special cult in the woods. As Katherine digs deeper into the mysteries, she learns these plagues might actually be the real thing.
I love a good apocalyptic horror movie on Easter weekend like the next guy, but “The Reaping” wasn’t exactly good. It spins off the flavor of something like “The Omen” or “The Exorcist,” but it is only a pale imitation of these types of films.
Part of the problem is the casting of AnnaSophia Robb, whom many will recognized from this spring’s “Bridge to Terabithia” or at least as the gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Robb is a strikingly beautiful young girl, and that’s her biggest problem. While a fine young actor, she just can’t nail the creepiness behind her prettiness. All the special effects and glowing eyes can’t hide the fact that she just is too darn cute to play the devil incarnate.
In addition to the ten Biblical plagues, “The Reaping” suffers from the plague of a terrible script. The fallen-from-grace missionary is exhausted by too many flashbacks to the death of her family at the hands of a superstitious Sudanese medicine man. The special effects of the plagues overrunning the town are cool, but it’s not substitute for a good story.
By the end of the film, even when things are all explained and revealed, I found myself confused. The story floundered around like a drunk at Mardi Gras. I don’t think the filmmakers made sure things were consistent throughout the movie, and it seemed as if they just made things up as they went along. When the ending finally comes, they take the Michael Bay way out of things by just deciding to blow shit up in a desperate attempt to impress the audience.
Finally, while this is going to offend some people, I have to say that I was tired of the filmmakers struggling to make Hilary Swank look like a sex symbol. Yeah, she’s got a thin body, but we must remember that this is the woman who won one Oscar for playing a boy and another for playing a boyish female boxer. Let’s face it, like her work on the stinker sci-fi film “The Core,” she’s paying her mortgage with this movie.
The costumers on the film insisted on fitting her into a series of skimpy outfits, from wet and tight tank tops to lacy undergarments for sleepwear. However, considering Swank’s most famous aspects of her career (and the fact that no matter how much make-up she wears, she still looks somewhat boyish), I couldn’t watch the excessive number of shots of her buttocks in tight clothes without flashing back to her forced sodomy scene in “Boys Don’t Cry.”