The weekend box office results are in, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier was #1 with a $96 million take! A record breaker. But I’m not talking about that movie. No, I’m talking about the one all the way down in 27th place (tied with a movie that played in 1/11th as many theaters,) another new release last weekend named Jinn. When I saw this one come up on a listing of movies playing nearby I was shocked. It’s not like I’m some sort of Hollywood insider, but I like to keep up on the entertainment world and with the internet it’s pretty easy to know about movies years in advance. Somehow, this one managed to fly completely under my radar, even with a big name (okay, that’s stretching things a bit) like Ray Park as one of the stars. This was right up my alley, too: a supernatural action flick incorporating mythology? My interest was piqued, so I went to see it.
The short version? It’s not a bad movie, but it comes nowhere near being a good one, either.
More detailed thoughts follow …
The movies two biggest faults were its clunkiness and its failure to be at all thrilling. Starring the guy who became famous for playing the over-hyped–but only real highlight of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace—Darth Maul, Ray Park’s action sequences in this film are disappointingly dull. The first consists of laying waste to a bunch of Jinn-possessed people who are mostly catatonic (they don’t put up much of a fight) followed by him dispatching a half dozen of them, stunned with the power of sparkles, in slow motion while wielding a knife that he twirled around a lot but never really cut anyone with. After that he was gone until the very end of the film. Another sequence was a car chase with an enraged smoke-like Jinn form that proceeded through a small city’s streets seemingly devoid of any other vehicular traffic. The car didn’t even appear to moving particularly fast.
There was some clever combat towards the end of the movie, focusing on a fight sequence that took place simultaneously in the past and present with the main character being able to draw out elements from each period to help him. Unfortunately this lead to issue #2: the clunkiness. The directing and pacing in this movie was simultaneously too on-the-nose and erratic. There was that opening narration, seemingly a requisite for anything fantasy or sci-fi oriented, that told us just slightly more than we’re told about half an hour into the movie when what’s going on is explained to the main character. Did the camera awkwardly linger too long on a seemingly unimportant aspect of the set at the beginning of the movie? That’s because it’ll come into play at the very end of the movie. But then there are also some cuts to the action that are rather inexplicable. such as one character appearing to engage in combat with an assailant that’s never identified and the resolution of the fight is left completely unaddressed. Towards the end, there’s a little too much cutting–probably to cover up some weak effects–leaving the audience a little baffled as to who is attacking and where it’s happening. The Jinn had a real love of elevating someone to the roof to engage in fisticuffs. As good an effect as any (using the special effect of turning the camera upside-down!) but a somewhat underwhelming display of a Jinn’s supposedly remarkable power. I was also disappointed by details that should have been addressed but weren’t, such as a VHS playing on a modern, HD display without appearing to be stretched or show the lousy resolution it should. In fact the VHS the character played seemed to have sound and picture distortion unlike any video tape I ever watched.
The storyline is a trite mish-mash of things from older, better movies. Scenes where characters are pulled through a forest and chased by an unseen threat were very reminiscent of Evil Dead II. There were prophecies and forgotten legends from, well, everything, and a test of worthiness that reminded me of The Golden Child and Mortal Kombat. The main characters were pretty and boring, the main character’s love interest being nothing more than a sexy lamp (one apparently blessed with a miraculous pregnancy that goes unquestioned.) But the story wasn’t completely devoid of originality. I really liked its attempt to embrace multiple religions and cultures into the tale, bringing in Jewish, Indian and Muslim elements along with the primarily Christian background (the hero’s base of operations ends up being a church.) It’s nice to have a hero who was something other than generic white guy (even if the wife was generic white girl.) I also enjoyed the way that technology seemed to play a big part in combating the Jinn; I just wasn’t clear if the hero relied on it because he was smart or just because it was there. Examples include: setting up a chant that weakens Jinn to loop continuously on his iPhone rather than having to recite it during combat and using his super awesome car to outrun a Jinn (during a dull chase sequence, but we’re told repeatedly how super awesome the car was.) Sadly, these were just hints of competence hidden among what was otherwise a bog-standard movie that at least only disappoints rather than outright bores.