The Ninth Gate

Bomb Rating: 

You become an agent for the devil, you live forever. Just look at Jesse Helms.

This film doesn't conclude, it just stops. Why this happens is anybody's guess -- the production company ran out of money, Johnny Depp went on a drunken rampage and slugged the cameraman, or a particularly hot-looking 13-year-old happened by one day and nobody ever saw director Roman Polanski again. It's a frustrating mystery.

Any film of Polanski's that begins in the United States, as this one does, is entirely predictable. It's only going to stay there for as long as Polanski is capable of eluding the authorities. Dean Corso (Johnny Depp), a New Yorker and expert in rare books, is hired by book-lover and demonologist Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to examine the two other copies of "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows," which are located in France and Spain -- two countries into which Polanski is allowed. How convenient.

I don't know about these book collectors, but I have graphic novels from five years ago sealed in plastic cases that are guaranteed to withstand everything from house fires to cat urine, yet Corso carries this million dollar book around the world like it's a handkerchief. He swirls Cognac above it and smokes around it constantly. As old as it is, you'd think if you let the sunlight hit it wrong it would spontaneously combust. Corso does everything but wipe his ass with the book.

The value of the book lies in its ability to release the devil, which is what Balkan is trying to do. You become an agent for the devil, you live forever. Just look at Jesse Helms. Apparently, you also meet hot chicks who fly, which is what this freaky girl (Emmanuelle Seigner) does. She flies and she kicks ass, which you would think would give Dean cause for some reflection. It's at this point that Polanski appears to lose control of the story as well as the ability to end the thing in any remotely sensible fashion. Oh well, good judgment has never been his strong suit, anyway.

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