Okay. So on Netflix it seems to be Cuba Gooding Jr month or year, maybe. I have seen Gooding’s name on the movie lists of Netflix in about five different lists. It’s not the same film listed several different times either. It’s at least five different films.
Someone on Netflix must have gotten a great distribution deal on Cuba’s films. Either that or no-one else wants them. Because if the rest of these films are like The Devil’s Tomb? It is probably the latter conclusion that fits best.
Directed by Jason Connery (better known for working on the other side of the camera) The Devil’s Tomb looks like Jason’s first directorial foray into feature film. Not so says IMDb (which interestingly lists The Devil’s Tomb as Connery’s first directed film chronologically) Jason’s ‘maiden’ feature film is Pandemic even though it is after The Devil’s Tomb on Connery’s filmography.
I could have forgiven the film some of it’s most obvious flaws if it was Connery’s maiden voyage. Okay maybe not, because let’s face it, the flaws are many and they range across the spectrum of ownership. The script, the acting, the location…You see where I’m going with this?
I have had a moan before about characters that I am supposed to care about not making the grade. What The Devil’s Tomb has is characters that lack dimension entirely. They have been created so haphazardly and sloppily that they aren’t even two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs of characters.
The plot is basic. A group of mercenary (add a question mark here, because in the Cuba Gooding Jr voice-over at the start of the film he refers to his little band of soldiers as mercenaries, but it appears that they aren’t…really) soldiers are told that they have to rescue Hellboy…Sorry, Ron Perlman from hole in the ground in the middle of the desert.
Gooding’s gang of merry men and women are joined by Valerie Cruz who, it turns out, is Hellboy’s daughter and she has to save only him from the hole. Nothing else is allowed to be taken from this secret location.
So a helicopter takes the group and deposits them outside a secret manhole cover with a combination coded lock and before leaving tells them they have six hours.
It is at this point that the film tries it’s hardest to be Event Horizon but in a hole in the ground. To be fair though the film has tried from almost the first frame to emulate the far superior Horizon by having Gooding’s character have flashbacks (brilliantly filmed in sepia tones so that there can be no mistake that these are indeed flashbacks) to an event prior to this latest mission.
Unfortunately these flashbacks include an almost unrecognizable Ray Winstone (it must have been the uniform, I honestly did not recognise the man until the end of the film) and they are so short, frequent and unedifying that only at the very end of the film do we learn the supposed purpose of them being here.
Once inside the tomb the small band of saviors encounter a priest with a really bad skin condition and Bill Moseley. I’m a huge fan of Moseley and was disappointed to see his cameo wasted as badly as Winstone’s. Quite frankly the producers could have used any unknown in either role, but they obviously thought the names would put a few extra bums in seats.
I don’t want to head into spoiler territory here (Are you kidding me? I hear you cry. What spoilers??) but after they all get ‘trapped’ in the lower floors of the underground facility everything goes ‘Pete Tong‘ (wrong) and they start seeing things and it all goes Event Horizon like but in a bargain basement, ‘we really don’t know how to do this,’ way.
If you look at the shooting budget of 10 million dollars, it is mystifying and downright difficult to figure out where the money went. It most certainly didn’t go into getting a decent script. Or even in getting a decent location. *In the Goofs section of IMDb they point out the very American graffiti that is present in an Iraqi underground bunker that is 900 floors beneath the desert floor.*
Now don’t get me wrong, I like Cuba Gooding Jr. Up until now he’s never failed to move me when I’ve seen him in other films. But in The Devil’s Tomb he just does not deliver. Jason Connery I’ve seen act and I like his work. He has a little bit to go on the directing front, but hey, he has to be given some decent material to work with.
My final verdict on The Devil’s Tomb? Put it back under the sand where it came from. For me a film has to be bad if all I can say during the end credits is, “Huh. So that’s it then.”
- Cuba Gooding Jr sought for arrest: What happened to this Academy Award winner? (thegrio.com)
- Event Horizon (1997) (mrholly.wordpress.com)