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RETRO REVIEW: THE SIXTH SENSE

RETRO REVIEW: 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS
February 13, 1999
RETRO REVIEW: THE 6TH DAY
February 13, 1999

RETRO REVIEW: THE SIXTH SENSE

Classic CHUD!

Reviewed by Nick Nunziata

They’re marketing this film like a thriller (and it has moments to qualify it) but they’d have been better off playing it as a relationship film with thriller overtones. It’s also a ghost story (after you see the film you’ll agree). A small film some would find slow moving, but a sign that Bruce Willis is reading his scripts instead of just taking what’s the most profitable. This is a good change of pace for the balding action hero.

THE SIXTH SENSE

Directed by M. Night (Praying With Anger, Wide Awake) Shyamalan

Starring Bruce (Pulp Fiction, Die Hard) Willis, Toni (Velvet Goldmine, Clockwatchers) Collette, Olivia (Rushmore, The Postman) Williams, Haley Joel (Forrest Gump, Mixed Nuts) Osment

The life of a child psychiatrist is a tough one. What if you can’t help one and he turns into a BIG EVIL BASTARD? Or worse yet, someone who doesn’t read CHUD! So, when Malcolm Crowe (Willis) is visited late one night by “one that got away” he is confronted by that weighty issue. He is also confronted by a bullet from said patient’s gun (which he later uses to blow his own troubled head off with). As he lies bleeding in his wife’s (Williams, the object of male affection in the classic Rushmore) lap, he begins to lose his grip on his job.

Flash forward. His marriage’s not what it used to be (even moreso as the film unfolds) and he’s trying to make up for the failure with his other patient by helping a boy with similar problems (the unbelievably talented young actor Osment). The boy is a cypher to all around him (especially his mother, played by Toni Collette with a strong performance) and he has a very dark secret (which of course they give away in the trailer). The film takes its sweet time getting to the guts of the story, instead focusing on the budding relationship between the troubled boy and the troubled doctor.

I was so surprised as the film unfolded how good of a job Bruce Willis did. A very passive performance, but very solid. He was wise to let the kid steal the show (Osment sometimes reminds you of a young John Cusack) but when his emotional scenes come up, you see a different Bruce Willis. Not that he gets too dramatic, but you see the tough guy being pushed aside for the softie underneath. Bruce Willis knows his days as an action hero are numbered and is making the smart choices to give his career life.

When the film gets spooky, it does a good job of it. There are a few scenes which will stick with you. Some pretty spooky things. I wouldn’t dare to give them away, but the audience (which had almost been lulled by the slow pace of the first half) was soon at attention and ready to jump into their date’s lap. It is these scenes which give the film a much needed boost.

There are problems with the film. The first 45 minutes is hampered by some wretched camerawork. The director, whom I had never heard of before this film could have used a Steadycam, and a little more money. Other than Willis, the film looks like it was shot VERY cheap. Normally they deserve kudos for the thrifty approach, but a film like this needs a little more spit and polish. That said, the second half of the film is MUCH better.

The film’s last 25 minutes get a little melodramatic, but once again the contrast from the first half make it a lot easier to deal with. Also, there is a very good payoff at the end which had a great deal of the folks around me whispering. This is one of those films that will leave you thinking for a good while after you leave the theater. A pretty solid little film. A little more technical effort, and the film would be a near classic. Either way it’s a sleeper that deserves a look from folks with an attention span.

7.7 out of 10