Dir:Nick Hamm. US. 2004. 100 mins.
Humancloning ought to make a juicy subject for a psychological horror film (not tomention a topical marketing hook for distributors). But the cloning premiseturns out to be more intriguing than the execution in Godsend, adisappointingly generic PG-13 thriller from Lions Gate that marks the US debutof British theatre-turned-movie-director Nick Hamm (The Hole).
Opening- against several other end-of-spring contenders - in the US last weekend, Godsend(co-financed with Lions Gate by 2929 Entertainment) managed a slightly betterthan expected $6.9m from 2,323 screens. Its US run will be cut short, however,by the arrival of the first of the summer season's would be blockbusters.
Independentdistributors in the international marketplace might face less competition whenthey open the film in, mostly, June and July. But even as mid-summer counterprogramming this wintry chiller with a mid-level - from an internationalperspective at least - cast is not likely to produce significant theatricalrevenue. Its best hopes will be on DVD and TV, where the relatively mildcontent should give rights holders plenty of sales options.
Thesombre tone is set early on, when Adam (Bright), the likeable eight-year-oldonly child of Paul and Jessie Duncan (Kinnear and Romijn-Stamos), is killed ina traffic accident. The grief-stricken Duncans are approached by Dr RichardWells (De Niro), a brilliant medical researcher who claims he can create aclone of Adam. Putting their doubts aside, the Duncans accept the offer and, tokeep the illegal procedure secret, agree to start a new life near Wells'secluded clinic.
The'new' Adam is as happy and healthy as the original until soon after his eighthbirthday. Then he starts having nightmares about a strange boy and turns, forno apparent reason, on classmates and teachers.
Adam'stransformation - marked by sudden icy looks and a cold, expressionless voice -is not very subtle and the changes that it brings about in his parents andtheir relationship with Dr Wells feel equally unnatural. The three adult starsget a lot of screen time but only the versatile Kinnear (last seen in theFarrelly brothers' Stuck On You) manages to find an emotionalthrough-line in the script by Mark Bomback (his first produced screenplay). DeNiro looks uncomfortable and uncommitted in most of his scenes.
Themystery of Adam's behaviour is spun out over the second half of the story, butthe effect is more frustrating than suspenseful. Hamm seems to be trying on avariety of different genres - ghost story, sci-fi thriller, psychological drama- for size and by the time Adam's malaise is (sort of) explained the film haslost whatever grip it once had on its audience. The ending is reportedly one ofseveral shot by Hamm and while it is probably one of the more subtle versionsit is still not very believable or satisfying.
Asa straightforward chiller, Godsend offers a few effective jolts, one ortwo quite scary ghost scenes (apparently achieved with minimal digitalenhancement), handsome cinematography and a quirky, unsettling musical score.But it also falls back on a number of overused genre devices, like gratuitousfalse alarms and repeated flash shots.
Prodcos: LionsGate Entertainment, 2929 Entertainment
US dist: LionsGate
Intl sales: Lions Gate
Prods: CathySchulman, Sean O'Keefe, Marc Butan
Exec prods: Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban, Jon Feltheimer, Mark Canton, Michael Paseornek,Michael Burns, Eric Kopeloff
Co-prods: Steve Mitchell, Mark Bomback
Cinematography: Kramer Morgenthau
Eds: SteveMirkovich, Niven Howie
Prod des: Doug Kraner
Costume des: Suzanne McCabe
Main cast: Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Robert De Niro, Cameron Bright