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Starring: Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johanssen, Jaime King

Director: Frank Miller

Screenplay: Frank Miller, Will Eisner

Cinematography: Bill Pope

Original Score: David Newman

Running Time: 103 Mins.

Riding high on the crest of a Dark Knight shaped wave, the superhero genre was, in 2008, at its peak. Bolstered by the likes of Iron Man and  Wanted, credibilty for films based on graphic novels of all shapes and sizes seemed untouchable for the better… Until along comes The Spirit. It’s not quite the abomination many accused it of prior to its release, it is however one untamed mess of a film spewing forth like the bastard offspring of Sin City and the zaniest of Looney Tunes cartoons. So like I said, not bad enough to be declared an abomination, but certainly a pointless mess of a film.

The problems begin with Frank Miller himself, though they certainly don’t end there. Sharing  a co-director credit for the aforementioned Sin City, a title that seems to have gone to his head, it’s telling that this credit was given to Miller on Sin City more out of respect for Miller from the actual director, Robert Rodriguez, for the creation of the comic as opposed to his actual directorial input. On this occasion though Miller IS the director, or at least he tries to be, lacking any distinct visual style it calls to mind a look akin to the mediocre Max Payne’s constant snowy atmosphere, unoriginal at best.

Never a big fan of Sin City I could at least respect it for it’s (at the time) unique visual style, but here the gimmick cannot hide the awful acting and lack of anything approaching a compelling plot. We learn from the putset that our hero, Denny Colt, was ‘killed’ and returned from the dead in the guise of The Spirit, an invincible entity who stalks the streets of “his city” fighting crime. The faceless Spirit is played by a faceless actor, Gabriel Macht, Macht has been in little of note and quite frankly on this evidence it’ clear why. Displaying no charisma and certainly no ‘spirit’, he simply looks happy at appearing in such a big budget film, in an era where our heroes are played with such charisma by Robert Downey Jr., Edward Norton, even the brooding Christian Bale, it simply serves to show how bland a presence Macht is.

Where blandness can be overlooked, over acting to the level of Samuel L. Jackson’s simply can’t be. Miller cannot control his biggest star, and given free reign Jackson once again tramples all over a turn (in Lakeview Terrace) which had helped him rebuild his kudos. As with the Spirit himself, Jackson’s supervillain, The Octopus is invincible meaning that apart from anything else there is no danger here at all. No sense of even the mildest threat, ruling the film pointless from the off, but forgetting that ‘minor’ detail and watching Jackson’s scenes, which include him dressing as a Nazi, wearing a giant pimp hat and repeating the same thing whilst watching a mini foot jump around in front of him simply defy belief and serve the film’s plot in no way randomness for randomness sake is no good thing.

All this and I havent even started on the pointless bevvy of beauties there for no reason other than eye candy, though credit where credit’s due, Eva Mendes imbues the best looking character with the most personality. Scarlett Johanssen on the other hand really should have known better.

VERDICT

Certainly no ‘spirit’ here, The Spirit is a forgettable noir-ish Sin City lite mess trampled all over by the uncontrolled, undirected Jackson, in what may be his worst ever performance, entertaining you might think. No, just plain embarrassing for all concerned!

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