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Split

M. Night Shyamalan has been a polarising director. Initially noted for engaging thrillers like ‘The Sixth Sense’ and ‘Unbreakable’, his ensuing output have increasingly drowned in self-indulgence. His last few films have been unmemorable with little to recommend them. ‘Split’ may change that. Combining genuine thrills with psychological terror, it somewhat restores ‘Shyamalan’s lost lustre. Diving headfirst into its quirky narrative, the issue of one’s identity is magnified under Shyamalan’s gaze.

Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) are friends heading home from a party. Having enjoyed a great time, their idyll is shattered when they are kidnapped by Kevin (James McAvoy). Locked in a small room, they are terrorized by his strange ways. Acting differently each time they see him, they learn Kevin has multiple personalities. Dealing with each one as best they can, the girls hope one of Kevin’s personalities will set them free. Events spiral out of control as their captor skates towards the edge of unstoppable madness.

As suspense thrillers go ‘Split’ is moderately exciting. Kevin is a very scary predator whose unpredictability ensures scenes in which he features are memorable. McAvoy digs deep into his impressive acting bag to portray the several personalities driving Kevin. It’s difficult thinking of another actor who could convincingly pull the role off, which McAvoy does with ease. Taylor-Joy is equally fine as the troubled Casey who has sinister secrets of her own.

Although Shyamalan always presents a myriad of interesting ideas, he has difficulty in merging them into a coherent story. ‘Split’ is no exception as, despite some genuinely creepy moments, it fails to deliver an overly satisfying narrative. There are many slow spots with Shyamalan’s eccentric story-telling style robbing events of ongoing tension. He heavily relies on the cast’s performances who carry the often wonky screenplay well. The musical score aids in generating atmosphere as does the shadowy gloom of Kevin’s abode which the cinematography lovingly captures.

‘Split’s success rests entirely on the actor’s shoulders. It is let down by messy direction and a script lacking in any sense of urgency. It’s better than recent Shyamalan works as he temporarily reigns in his creative ego to conjure a movie showing the skills capturing audience’s initial attention.

Rating out of 10: 6

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

In Hollywood, the end never arrives. While movie franchises may stop, if they make a mountain of money, they inevitably return. We’ve had the alleged ‘final’ entries to the ‘Harry Potter’, Nightmare on Elm Street’ and other series only to see them return. ‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’ makes a bold claim that this is ‘the end’. Whether it is, only the box office will tell. Long-time enthusiasts of this ghoulish set of films should take its title with a pinch of salt as it cuts a swathe towards its supposed ‘final’ fadeout.

Alice (Milla Jovovich) is still battling the evil Umbrella Corporation. Responsible for unleashing a deadly zombie plague upon the earth, the wicked conglomerate seems unstoppable. Armed with a plethora of weapons, Alice and her friends, including Claire (Ali Larter) and Abigail (Ruby Rose), stand firm against an upcoming onslaught. Facing a myriad of grotesque creatures, they do their best to crush the corporation’s power in a bid to save humanity once and for all.

The true star of ‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’ isn’t Jovovich or director Paul W.S. Anderson, but the editor. Rarely has an action film been so harshly edited within an inch of its existence. It’s difficult to tell if the explosive action sequences are well staged due to the rapid-fire editing. This takes away from their impact and the film overall. Whilst Anderson shows much flair in the staging and plotting, the way the movie looks and edited is truly awful.

One of the few savings graces is the story, which effectively expands on the established mythology. More is learnt about Alice and her foes with previous events more clearly understood. Jovovich makes for a great heroine although her co-stars don’t get much of a look in. Iain Glen, as the main villain, hams it up for all he’s worth although he equips himself well in the fight scenes. Sadly it’s hard to tell if the movie looks good as the eternally dark and muddy cinematography masks the creatures that audiences are meant to marvel at.

The end probably couldn’t come soon enough for ‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’. While the script is strong, the elements meant to support it let it down. It’s a serviceable enough time-waster with the producers hopefully wise to the fact that the end has come for a slowly dwindling franchise.

Rating out of 10: 4