The Number 23
Review by Jack Foley
IT BOASTS a genuinely intriguing concept and a fine performance from Jim Carrey but Joel Schumacher’s tense thriller The Number 23 fails to add up to anything like a satisfying experience.
For conspiracy theorists, the number 23 is one of the most fascinating of all-time, and certainly the darkest. Traced back to its roots, the number is believed to be synonymous with evil, especially since some of the most significant dates in history add up to 23. The Hiroshima bomb, for instance, was dropped at 8.15; 9/11/2001 adds up to 23. Less sinister, there are 46 chromosomes in the human body – 23 from each parent.
Schumacher’s film includes several nods to such fascinating trivia but, unfortunately, wraps it up in such a disappointing story that the film feels like a very big missed opportunity.
Carrey – a self-confessed 23 addict in real-life – plays amiable dog-catcher Walter Sparrow whose happy existence begins to come apart at the seams after he begins reading a novel called The Number 23, which his wife (Virginia Madsen) happens to find in a book store.
Discovering that the novel’s hero – a sleazy detective (also played by Carrey) – shares many of the same character traits and life experiences as his own, Sparrow becomes obsessed with its repurcussions, particularly as the novel ends with the detective becoming a murderer.
Enlisting the help of his son, he attempts to find the mystery author, Topsy Kretts (please!), and prevent the unthinkable – but merely ends up becoming increasingly paranoid and eventually teetering on the brink of insanity.
There’s plenty of fun to be had early on watching Fernley Phillips’ plot come together, especially when the film draws on the eerie facts surrounding the number, and Schumacher’s direction is certainly edgy, neatly complimenting Carrey’s increasingly paranoid state of mind.
But once the red herrings begin to stack up and the truth is slowly revealed, the film’s shortcomings are quickly exposed. Carrey spends too much time chasing his tail, supporting characters begin to act unconvincingly and the truth behind the novel is a little hard to swallow. The film is essentially about a man being stalked by a number!
As hard as both Carrey and Schumacher subsequently try, the movie’s own number has expired long before the overblown conclusion. Sadly, The Number 23 adds nothing new to the numerical phenomenon and is almost certain to leave audiences divided over its merits.
Running time: 95mins