Movie review: Glass

M. Night Shyamalan is back tracking the audience in a sequel to Split

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
With James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson, Samuel L. Jackson

Glass completes a trilogy of film from director M. Night Shyamalan, following up on plot lines from 2000’s Unbreakable and 2016’s Split.

Shyamalan made his name with The Sixth Sense in 1996, and since then, virtually all of his films have relied on some plot trick that pulls the rug out from under the viewer. But his success has been mixed.

With Glass, he does this trickery to such an extent that audience simply resigns from any attempt to understand the logic of what is going on or why.

The main theme of the film is that comic book superheroes exist in real life. Various characters annoyingly pontificate about the importance of comic books throughout the film.

Bruce Willis, who was seen briefly at the end of Split, returns as David Dunn / The Overseer, the virtually invincible security guard character with ESP that he played in Unbreakable. He wanders the streets of Philadelphia looking for wrongs to avenge but is considered a vigilante by police.

The best part of Willis’ performance is that he plays the character without a wig or shaved head, so the audience can see his real receding, gray hairline. Otherwise, there is not much depth to explore as Willis’ dialogue lacks the zippy oneliners he needs.

The idea that a man who goes around attacking criminals in an extra-judicial manner, like Batman and Superman both do, would be actually unpopular with the police and the general public is a welcome bit of reality. But it is one of the few insights the film offers.

James McAvoy reprises the role of Kevin Wendell Crumb, a disturbed man with 23 personalities known collectively as The Horde. It didn’t work in Split and is even more annoying time. For a large part of the film, Kevin is trapped in an institution with an array of strobe lights by the door.

People trigger the lights to make Kevin change into a different one of his 23 personas.

The lights are like a carnival wheel that lands on a new name, or a broken cable box flipping random stations.

The effect on screen is something like an old cartoon where a character changes rapidly for comic effect every time it is poked. As an acting job, it must be difficult. But it is still not convincing.

The film’s title refers to David Dunn’s nemesis from Unbreakable, the evil mastermind Elijah Price / Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), who suffers from a brittle bone disease. He has been institutionalized since the events of Unbreakable and is mostly in a catatonic state.

For reasons that make little sense, even when explained, all three are put next to each other in the same bizarre mental hospital, a massive brick structure that seems to have a staff of just three or four people. In a few brief shots, there are more patients and staff, but they all vanish as quickly as they appeared and leave the building abandoned again.

A truly creepy and unbelievable turn of events has one of Kevin’s victims from Split, a kidnapped woman named Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) who managed to survive, turning up and being sympathetic to the abductor who almost killed her. While the film tries to put a spin on some action film cliches, it would have been better to leave this one out.

Writer and director M. Night Shyamalan use this strange setup of putting the characters all together to play several tricks on the viewers, constantly promising one plot twist and then delivering another. The charm, though, wears thin as what winds up being shown on screen is far less interesting than what the audience was led to expect would happen.

As a trilogy, this group of films has suffered from diminishing returns with the first film, Unbreakable, is by far the best and most original, and the each of the two sequels being increasingly weaker and contrived.

The end opens the door for even more films, but as any cat can tell you, simply because a door is open it doesn’t mean one has to walk through it. Sometimes it is better just to sit and stare at it instead.

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