Review: ‘Blink’

High concept blurs the bedrock of plot and plausibility in "Blink." A thriller steeped in scientific research, its focus is too often bogged down in lab-room mumbo jumbo. The result is that what should be a straightforward genre outing becomes a cumbersome scientific digression in which somewhere lurks a killer.

High concept blurs the bedrock of plot and plausibility in “Blink.” A thriller steeped in scientific research, its focus is too often bogged down in lab-room mumbo jumbo. The result is that what should be a straightforward genre outing becomes a cumbersome scientific digression in which somewhere lurks a killer.

Being neither fish nor fowl, this New Line release adds up to spotty theatrical prospects. The craft and gloss may provide some initial business, but its primary vitality will be as a video rental title.

Not to be confused with “Jennifer 8’s” story of a blind woman in jeopardy, the new outing is about a formerly blind woman in peril from a killer whom she may or may not have seen. Musician Emma Brody (Madeleine Stowe) has recently regained her eyesight following a corneal transplant. But the coordination between what her brain registers and what she actually sees isn’t quite aligned. Skewed images that she experiences one day become clear a day later. Her doctor explains that she’s experiencing that rare phenomenon known as an ocular flashback.

So, one evening upon hearing noise in the hallway of her apartment building, she goes to investigate. All she can discern is a form until the next morning, when she hallucinates a man’s face. As her upstairs neighbor was murdered the night before, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the killer might look like.

If you find this a bit far-fetched, you’re in good company. The police are highly skeptical of this witness’s credibility. The only reason John Hallstrom (Aidan Quinn) — the detective in charge of investigating the presumed serial killer — begins to rely on Emma is because she’s his only witness and he’s sexually attracted to her. The latter element appears to be the bane of all contemporary movie cops.

Writer Dana Stevens just doesn’t know how to transmit her fascination with things optical and maintain the minimum amount of tension necessary for a thriller. However, her zeal has rubbed off on director Michael Apted, who concocts some clever visual devices to simulate Emma’s condition. It provides for some arresting sights but proves no substitute for the script’s blind spots.

“Blink’s” major problem is a reliance on gimmick. There is no scientific payoff, no metaphor to be played out. In fact, once all the eye stuff becomes too cumbersome, the backdrop shifts to the equally undramatic arena of organ transplants. “Blink” may never screen in a film studies department, but it does seem destined to be a must-see in medical school.

The picture is not improved by the presence of some very good actors attempting to make sense of their characters and situations. Stowe simply is not good in the role of a somewhat dumb woman in jeopardy, though she has more range here than in “Unlawful Entry.” Quinn is just barely capable of keeping a straight face confronted with his cop steeped in cliche.

About the only interesting aspects of the film are such marginal elements as the depiction of a certain squad room vulgarity and some nuts-and-bolts elements surrounding the music scene that Emma’s contempo folk group inhabits.

This flash-in-the-pan entertainment will not have the type of rapid movement a title like “Blink” suggests. Expect no more than a commercial flutter.

Blink

Production

A New Line Cinema release. Produced by David Blocker. Executive producers, Robert Shaye, Sara Risher. Directed by Michael Apted. Screenplay, Dana Stevens.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color, Filmhouse prints; widescreen), Dante Spinotti; editor, Rick Shaine; music, Brad Fiedel; additional music, Michael Kirkpatrick; production design, Dan Bishop; art direction, Jefferson Sage; set design, Amy J. Smith; set decoration, Dianna Freas; costume design, Susan Lyall; sound (Dolby), Chris Newman; digital effects supervisor, Art Durinski; line producer, Barry Watkins; assistant director, David Sardi; casting, Linda Lowy. Reviewed at Warner Hollywood Studios, L.A., Jan. 6, 1994. (In Palms Springs Film Festival.) MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 106 MIN.

With

Emma Brody - Madeleine Stowe
Det. John Hallstrom - Aidan Quinn
Candice - Laurie Metcalf
Det. Thomas Ridgely - James Remar
Dr. Ryan Pierce - Peter Friedman
Lt. Mitchell - Bruce A. Young
Officer Crowe - Matt Roth
Neal Booker - Paul Dillon
The Drovers - Michael Kirkpatrick, Sean C. Cleland, Craig Winston Damon, David Callahan, Jackie Moran
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