Tuesday, 28 May 2024

Believing 'The X-Files' holds interest as crime thriller

THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE (Rated PG-13)


As a television series, “The X-Files” was wildly popular, particularly with the crowd that enjoys something weird and paranormal. Then, years ago, along came an “X-Files” movie that now I can scarcely recall, but dimly remember as muddled and barely comprehensible. My lack of connection to the movie probably was due to having seen, at best, only a couple of episodes of the original TV series.


For reasons unclear, after all these years, “The X-Files: I Want to Believe” emerges from the fervid imagination of creator Chris Carter. If I want to believe anything at all, it’s simply whether this new “X-Files” holds up its billing as a standalone plot which requires little more than a passing acquaintance with famous characters Scully and Mulder and the premise of the old series.


“The X-Files: I Want to Believe” does give reason to accept as true its underlying promise. At one time, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) were agents at the FBI, pondering the paranormal to solve crimes, and yet just strange happenings often defied explanation.


Now, Mulder is a virtual recluse somewhere in West Virginia, mostly clipping newspapers. Scully is a first-rate surgeon working at a Catholic hospital, bucking heartless administrators who don’t want her to pursue a risky operation on a young boy that requires experimental stem cell technology.


Meanwhile, in the snowy fields of West Virginia, swarms of FBI agent are combing the countryside to locate a missing colleague. The investigation is being assisted by the eccentric Father Joe (Billy Connolly), a pedophile former priest who claims psychic ability.


Agent Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet), while not exactly a believer in the paranormal, is willing to give the disgraced priest some benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, Agent Drummy (Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner) is downright hostile to using tactics outside the field manual.


Agent Whitney prevails upon Scully to bring Mulder back into the fold, at least for this one vexing case that quickly turns into serial murder. Practical and logical, Scully despises the former priest’s crimes against kids, and this feeling is likely exacerbated by her emotional involvement with her young patient who is terminally ill absent a miracle operation.


For his part, Mulder is more willing to believe that Father Joe could be on to something, particularly when he locates body parts hidden in the snow and bleeds from his eyes when overcome by one of his visions. This sets up the dichotomy between Mulder and Scully, a situation that sets up a believer against a skeptic, which apparently reflects their ongoing duality.


What’s entirely believable, though, is that the plot veers off into the serial killer territory that is just plain creepy, as if “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was suddenly joined with “Frankenstein” while mixed up in paranormal weirdness. Without giving away too much detail, it can be safely said that trafficking in body parts takes on a nasty, brutal gruesomeness that makes me, at least, question the wisdom of a “PG-13” rating on this movie.


The mood and tempo of this crime thriller is advanced by the gloomy, wintry backdrop of desolate areas in the bleak countryside. The movie’s villains are aliens, but not the extraterrestrial kind. There’s true menace to these bad guys, which is really stating the obvious when the horrific, gruesome nature of their crimes is revealed.


Even though, as mentioned earlier, “The X-Files: I Want to Believe” is a standalone affair, it’s perhaps asking too much for the movie to appeal to people not already attached to the characters and the franchise’s paranormal pedigree. The movie is simply not a strong enough entry in the summer sweepstakes to pull an audience already given great picks like “The Dark Knight” or one of the other credible superhero adventures.


“The X-Files” asks us to believe that it holds great interest as a serious crime thriller with psychic overtones, but there will be skeptics.


DVD RELEASE UPDATE


Not to be confused with the August release of “Deal,” about an arrogant young card player on the world poker tour, “The Deal” is a fitting release for an election year. OK, it’s not about American politics, but it still has relevance.


Chronicling the rise of two British politicians, “The Deal” delivers an intimate portrait of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, both of whom united to make the Labor Party electable for the first time in a generation.


The film probes the enduring, complex and often tense relationship between the former Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) and his successor Gordon Brown (David Morrissey). For those like me, with a short term memory, you should know that “The Deal” initially debuted on HBO last year, and so our familiarity with this movie is probably limited.


It is, however, a compelling drama about how the intellectual Brown was eclipsed by his younger, charismatic protégé Blair, who delivered an election victory.


Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


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