I got suckered into watching The Ninth Gate the other night. On paper, this looks kind of OK. With a cast including Depp, Frank Langella, and Lena Olin, you know that it will live up to minimum standards of movie acting, at least. It was directed by Roman Polanski, for crying out loud.
There are some fun moments in it. What’s not to like about depraved devil-worshiping rich people? But in the end, it sure seems dumb. Somehow all the foreshadowing and foreboding comes down to Depp banging Demon-chick on a hillside, and then somehow getting subsumed into some unspecified pact with the devil. The downfall, really, is that Depp thrives on playing people with personalities, and this guy just seems remote and self-involved. He underplays the lines that could have given the role some panache.
Frank Langella gets more mileage than Depp out of his part, but even with him, there’s something kind of muted and remote. Did Polanski forget how to have fun with this sort of material? “Rosemary’s Baby” was a pinnacle of Satan-centric melodrama; where The 9th Gate is cool, “Rosemary’s Baby” was overheated, almost campy.
It wasn’t a complete waste of time. There are some really entertaining deaths involved, and Paris is almost a better movie set than a tourist destination. But I would never choose to watch it over a movie that’s actually good.