There was a time when Gary Oldman’s every performance was cause for excitement and astonishment. From our first exposure to him (for most of us, it was Sid & Nancy) to his brief, scene-stealing turn as a Detroit pimp in True Romance, the guy was incapable of anything less than brilliance. Then he began to slip up. The self-parody of Stansfield in Luc Besson’s The Professional was enjoyable enough, and he was quite good as Beethoven in Immortal Beloved, but there’s no excusing his participation in Roland Joffe’s legendarily awful muddling of The Scarlet Letter. From there it was a series of paycheck gigs in studio product like Air Force One and Lost in Space; when he did bother with off-kilter fare, his instincts usually proved dreadful (do not see the unreleasable duo of Tiptoes and Interstate 60).
I could be wrong, but it seems unlikely that his portrayal of an evil-battlin’ rabbi in David S. Goyer’s Unborn will serve as a long-awaited return-to-form. I like Goyer, but this is a Platinum Dunes production; unless they’re experimenting with thoughtful horror, it’s likely this will be another loud, flashy, incomprehensible frightfest – which is fine so long as they’re not applying this formula to Rosemary’s Baby. Unborn will star Odette Yustman (the imperiled girlfriend from Cloverfield) as a young woman haunted by the ghost of a boy who perished in the Holocaust. Helping Oldman cleanse Yustman of pissed-off spirits will be Idris “Stringer Bell” Elba; sadly, he’ll play a priest, not a rabbi. Meagan Good, Carla Gugino, Rhys Coiro and the great Jane Alexander round out the cast.
I look forward to Oldman’s funny Yiddish accent, but I’d much prefer him in something watchable. Rogue Pictures will distribute Unborn domestically.