The ability to talk to the dead has brought us some great films over the last few decades. Peter Jackson`s The Frighteners is a fantastic romp into horror comedy (and in my humble opinion one of his best films to date), whilst Shyamalan`s now often-mocked The Sixth Sense was, of its time, a ruddy brilliant picture. With rising British star Robert Sheehan of Misfits fame at the helm, David Blair`s new supernatural drama about an embittered young man who begrudgingly works as a conduit between the living and the dead seems on paper to be a sure-fire hit.
Cursed to see the unresting spirits of the violently deceased, Jack (Sheehan) is resentfully forced to deliver messages to the loved ones of the dead so that they can finally move on to the afterlife. Seeking solace in drink and drugs, Jack tries to drown out the voices, but is dragged into the investigation into the apparent suicide of a high-ranking journalist (Jack Fox, Fresh Meat, Privates).
Had the script been approached with even half an ounce of dark humour, this could have been a highly watchable film. Indeed, had the supernatural element actually been played upon, it could perhaps even been half watchable. As it is, however, The Messenger is akin to watching Robert Sheehan paint a wall (in an insipid shade of magnolia at that) and then allow the audience to sit and watch it for an hour and a half.
Not scary enough to be a horror, without the actual punchline of a mystery, and without the much needed drama of a drama, The Messenger ends up being little more than a meandering mess of good ideas that are introduced and then fizzle away to nothing. Robert Sheehan is wasted in what could, with the right writing team, have been a career-defining performance, but instead he auto-pilots his way through Andrew Kirk`s kitchen sink-worthy screenplay with a general undertone of boredom.
The supporting cast are wooden and lifeless (and not in the intended way), with former model Lily Cole proving that she should have stayed on the catwalk as she delivers her lines with all the skill and nuance of an inebriated squirrel. Joely Richardson meanwhile is utterly wasted as Jack`s psychiatrist, and one must wonder why an actress of her caliber took on such an inconsequential role amidst a sea of utter tosh.
All in all, The Messenger, for this critic, is possibly the biggest disappointment of the year so far. So much promise completely squandered due to an utterly lackluster script.
Dir: David Blair
Scr: Andrew Kirk
Starring: Robert Sheehan, Joely Richardson, Lily Cole, David O`Hara
DOP: Ian Moss
Music: Ian Livingstone
Run time: 101 mins
The Messenger is in cinemas from 18 September 2015.