The Number 23

The Number 23

2 Stars

Oh what a tangle web Joel Schumacher weaves. And he almost gets too intricate with his new thriller, “The Number 23” starring Jim Carrey and Virginia Madsen.

“The Number 23” is a film about obsession and psychosis. Walter Sparrow (Carrey) is a dog catcher running late for a date with his wife (Madsen). While she waits for him, she stops by a late night book store and picks up an odd novel called “The Number 23” by an unknown author named Topsy Kretts. As Walter begins reading it, he finds an increasing number of strange coincidences between the book’s main character Fingerling and himself. This soon consumes him as he begins to explore the origin of the book, including the investigation of a 15 year old murder.

I couldn’t watch this film without films like “Se7en” or “Fight Club” (both directed by David Fincher) popping into my mind. It’s got that same sort of feel to it, a gritty psychological thriller with a huge twist ending looming on the horizon. And that’s the mark of faulty directing. I’m reminded of another director’s work, a particular director’s work. Schumacher didn’t leave an impression on me. I know he can handle the thriller. “Flatliners” was a fantastic film. But I can’t help but think this film would have been better under the direction of Fincher. Schumacher just could not get this film to work right for him. He didn’t leave his mark on it.

The script gets too smart for its own good. It wants to be clever in it’s revealing of the plot and the surprise twist ending, but this ploy is something we as Americans have become so accustomed to with the works of Fincher and M. Night Shyamalan, that we start to expect twist endings, and begin guessing them before the film is even halfway over. If it’s not done just right, then the ending will be very apparent. It wasn’t done right; I could see this coming halfway through, which was a detriment to the enjoyment of the movie.

Central to the flick’s plot is the titular number 23. It has this mystical connection to the life of Sparrow. Key dates in his life add up to be 23, or 32, 23 reversed. The number pops up on the signs, buses, jerseys and license plates he sees. It’s even hidden in the colour his walls are painted. The number 23 is just a myth. Like one character says in the flick, if you look for it, you’ll find it. Too many inconsistencies in the theory though. On some dates you have to add all the numbers, in some you exclude the year, in some you exclude the month and day, in some you exclude the day. How do you know which one you include? As long as you can get 23, it works. It’s stacking the odds in your favour.

So what elevates this film? Jim Carrey does. He’s grown so much as a performer since he hit it big 13 years ago with “Ace Ventura”. It’s curious as to why some critics and award shows are still unwilling to recognize his talent. This isn’t by any means his finest performance, but it is a damn fine one. I can only hope to see more of this sort of serious work from him in the future.

I thought it would have been funny or clever to include a hidden message in the review, maybe by circling every 23rd word in the review, you’ll get the meaning of life. But that would turnout just like the film I’m reviewing- utterly pointless.

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