Director Sam Raimi is an expert in genre-twisting. Back when he was making The Evil Dead he so overloaded his gore epic that it eventually became funny. With The Gift he takes on a genre even more arcane: the British whodunit. Then he does weird shit with it. First he transports the whole shebang to the Deep South to remove all traces of afternoon tea or warm beer. Then he gives us Cate Blanchett as a clairvoyant detective who can’t quite make out the identity of the murderer – well, it wouldn’t be much of film if she could, would it? And then, as a masterstroke, he takes a raft of famous faces and casts most of them against type: the normally pale-and-interesting Keanu Reeves as a redneck; Hilary Swank – who had just won an Oscar for playing a transgender teenager in Boys Don’t Cry – as the most glamorous puss in town; Greg Kinnear, best known in 2000 for playing a gay role in As Good As It Gets, he’s the red-blooded lead. And Raimi got Katie Holmes to take her clothes off in a scene recently voted “Hottest Sex Scene in a Movie” by GQ. No one saw that coming. Otherwise it’s whodunit business as usual, with red herrings, blind avenues, bumbling policemen, epiphanies at midnight and, of course, a completely now-why-didn’t-I-see-that ending. Enjoyable as hot buttered toast.
© Steve Morrissey 2013