Starring: Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Lena Olin
Director: Roman Polanski
The Ninth Gate revolves around a 17th century manuscript, The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, which gives instructions about how to summon Satan’s presence.
There are three known copies of the manuscript. New York billionaire Boris Balkan (played by Frank Langella) owns one of them. The other two are in Europe.
Balkan believes that one of the copies is a fake. Dean Corso (Johnny Depp), a rare book curator, is hired by Balkan to find the other copies and to decide which one is the fraud.
The Ninth Gate is based on Spanish author, Arturo Perez Reverte’s highly acclaimed novel, El Club Dumas. It is a well-researched and very serious novel about how attractive and seductive evil is, especially for those with brains and money.
Director Roman Polanski and co-writers Enrique Urbiz and John Brownjohn may have taken Reverte’s plot, but their screenplay butchers his style, insights and intelligence.
The Ninth Gate is so overdrawn, Polanski has turned the story into a parody. Everything about the film – the sets, the characters, the music and the lack of attention to detail, undermines the serious story it purports to tell.
For example, I have never seen a serious book curator handle antique books without gloves. In this film, however, not only is there not a glove in sight, but they drink coffee and smoke over them, carry them around in the rain and photocopy them too! The evil billionaire lives in an evil skyscraper guarded by huge gargoyles and his security pin number is, surprise, surprise, 666.
Polanski even borrows the mansion scene from Eyes Wide Shut, but sadly, does not borrow Stanley Kubrick’s flair. Given the number of times Gordon Gin and Johnny Walker Scotch are noticeably placed in this film, we can assume these companies sponsored it.
The Ninth Gate attempts to be an action thriller, murder mystery and mystical fantasy. It fails on every score and lurches from one evil genre cliche to another. The seductiveness of evil deserves more serious attention than it gets in this film.