BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
AUGUST 7, 2010
Psychological thriller or purgatorial science fiction flick? Is Liam Neeson just your run-of-the-mill mortician, plagued with the gift of seeing the spiritual realm, or is he just a smooth-talking serial killer, able to brainwash his victims into “crossing to the other side“? Unfortunately, the viewer is left to make the final call as “After.Life” gives no blatant, straightforward answers
Liam Neeson plays a creepy mortician named Eliot Deacon. The film’s seesaw plot works solely because of Neeson‘s performance. His lack of emotion and sullen voice demand recognition, showcasing the skills that Neeson possesses yet rarely utilizes. Pay close attention to the demeanor of Deacon, slow and methodical, yet unworried and unabashed, even when his plan is being foiled. Neeson can put on “the face” for just about every character he comes into contact with until the viewer is completely unaware where Neeson’s character stands. Deacon marks a very different role for Neeson but with pinpoint precision, he encapsulates the true nature of the beast.
Christina Ricci grows more gorgeous with every passing film in her ever-growing arsenal, even able to pull off the pale and sultry corpse. Splayed in a red dress throughout the film, Ricci is forced on a mental mind trip by Eliot Deacon as he tries to convince her that she must submit to the life of the dead. Ricci’s main purpose is to react. Playing off of Neeson and Long, Ricci reveals her stronger side. When beauty and poise combine in one devastatingly drop-dead bombshell of Ricci, the result is breathtaking.
Justin Long, too, shows his range, putting aside the geeky downtrodden nobody that he frequents and establishes himself as a businessman who gets what he wants. The interactions between Neeson and Long are textbook acting. Long needs to get passed Neeson to see if his lover is alive, yet Neeson will not let Long go quietly, leaving Long stuck outside the locked basement door where Ricci reflects on the other side. Long uses every tactic he can to get passed Neeson, but in the end, Neeson’s will prevails. Long is deep and has the potential of his peers in Shia LaBeouf and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. All Long needs are some reoccurring roles along these same lines.
If the story of “After.Life” is not for you, the set design is well worth the viewing, The scheme and placement of colors prove the strong attention to detail. The color red dominates the film’s palette and the many uses of the color make the film a proverbial Easter egg hunt. The design relays the cold and damp atmosphere of the basement Ricci is locked in and even Ricci’s make-up is applied with painstaking accuracy. Believe it or not, there are still directors paying close attention to every little detail in their film and to recognize that in “After.Life” is completely worthwhile as a critic, garnering not only enjoyment of the film but respect and admiration.
“After.Life” is a straight-to-DVD release that has a theater release quality. Much like “Chloe” (also a Neeson picture), “After.Life” could have easily run for a theatrical release and would have projected average buys at the box office. With a tight-knit cast in Neeson, Ricci, and Long, original twist-and-turn story, and set designs to inspire an audience, the film was fresh and inspiring. Though a conclusion may never be drawn about the life or death of Ricci‘s character, in reality, her career, along with all involved with the film, thrives with vitality and vigor.
April 9, 2010
Anchor Bay Entertainment
(for nudity, disturbing images, language and brief sexuality)
Anastas N. Michos
Brad Michael Gilbert