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The Nines

Ryan Reynolds in The Nines

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IT’S not often that you come away from a film unsure about what’s just happened but impressed nonetheless. The Nines, which marks the directorial debut of screenwriter John August, is one such film in that it baffles and intrigues in equal measure and provides plenty to think about afterwards.

The story picks up after TV actor Gary (played by Ryan Reynolds) goes on a drink and drugs bender before smoking crack with a hooker, discovering that he doesn’t have a belly button and then crashing his car in the panic that ensues!

Placed under house arrest, he then begins to experience weird occurrences that aren’t helped by either the strange lady next door (Hope Davis) or his minder (Melissa McCarthy).

But then things take a really bizarre turn after a startling revelation that opens a portal into the lives of a stressed TV producer and another actor (both played by Reynolds) who somehow seem linked to Gary’s story.

Much like Donnie Darko and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Nines seems to operate on a number of dimensions, providing three inter-linked stories that become progressively darker and more surreal. Yet throughout, the big questions remain – how are they all linked and will they make sense?

August, for his part, doesn’t provide any easy answers but raises a lot of mind-bending possibilities that are inspired both from his own experiences in TV and society’s current fixation with celebrity, reality TV and commercialism. To make things even stranger, he then tosses in a surreal, even metaphysical element that really sets the brain cells buzzing.

The ensuing film dazzles as much as it frustrates and is more in keeping with the quality of the writer-director’s screenplays for Go and Big Fish than the work he did for The Charlie’s Angels movies.

It also provides Reynolds (the former Van Wilder) with his second great role(s) of 2007 – following his outstanding turn in Smokin’ Aces.

The actor provides each of his three characters with a distinct identity and convinces in every incarnation, whether keeping things light early on or becoming increasingly confused by the darker elements surrounding the story.

Strong, too, are Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy, who both crop up in various guises throughout each of the three stories.

The Nines will probably split audiences right down the middle but it won’t fail to get them talking afterwards. It’s a sharp, smart high-concept thriller that genuinely keeps you guessing.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 95mins
UK DVD Release: March 24, 2008