“Every Asian person is a genius,” is one. “All police investigations will involve a visit to a strip-club,” is another. And “anyone driving a car while chatting to their adorable child passenger is about to have a crash” is a third.
So, I guess we can give Flatliners at least one star for knowing the clichés of scriptwriting. Ellen Page has barely glanced at her freckle-faced sister in the passenger seat of the Volvo she is piloting before she is swerving to avoid an inconveniently parked digger and hurtling off the side of a bridge and into the river below.
Now I think about it, “safety barriers on bridges never work” is probably another movie cliché we can add to our list.
Fast-forward nine years and Page, having aged not a day and giving a whole new definition to the term “slumming it”, is a senior student at a prestigious medical school in an unnamed American city.
We know that Page is preoccupied with the possibility of life-after-death, mostly because director Niels Arden Oplev,with an almost endearing clumsiness, inserts a couple of quick shots of Page reading from a badly bodged up webpage called Is There Life After Death?
Another 10 minutes of screen time passes before Page hits on the idea of getting her uniformly attractive and bland co-students to stop her heart for a couple of minutes so she can find out for herself.
Why she thinks this will work is never made clear.
Maybe she got the idea from watching an old 1990 Brat-Pack thriller called Flatliners?
Or perhaps her professor Kiefer Sutherland – who is apparently reprising his role in this 2017 film, but who actually just drops by for five minutes of screen time and a producer’s credit – gave her the idea.
Page arrives back from her two minutes in the great beyond happily enough, but it’s not long before something that looks and sounds like her ex-little sister is scampering around at the edges of her vision and making mischief with the household appliances.
Flatliners has some half-decent moments.
Arden Oplev has more fun with an old elevator than anyone since Alan Parker was hurtling Mickey Rourke down to hell in Angel Heart (please, God, don’t let anyone remake Angel Heart).
And a brief sequence with nothing more threatening than an old shower curtain and some sound-effects is perfectly effective.
But, mostly, Flatliners is exactly the fragrant pile of poo the trailers have been promising.
The cast get their lines out and manage not to trip over the furniture, but only Page and Kiersey Clemons seem like anything other than disposable props in Ben Ripley’s terminally toothless script.
Listen, if I sat down and watched the 1990 original tonight, it’s more than likely I’d think it was a laughably daft load of old rubbish as well.
But that film exists in an adolescent sweet spot of my movie-going life which I think it earned.
I really can’t imagine anyone, in two decades’ time, looking back on this Flatliners iteration with anything approaching fondness.
In fact, I can’t really imagine anyone remembering it at all.
Editor’s Note: A screening delay meant our local reviewer was unable to see this movie at The Empire on Thursday night. CINews’ regular reviews will continue next week.