FILM REVIEW – GLASS. With James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Rated PG-13 for violence including some bloody images, thematic elements, and language. 129 minutes.
Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan has had one of the most disappointing careers in the movies. After scoring a big hit with his third film, “The Sixth Sense” (1999), he kept trying to recapture the magic with a series of increasingly lame movies where his “surprise twist” landed with a thud, such as “Signs,” “The Village,” and the laughably bad “Lady In The Water.”
Only “Unbreakable” (2000), which was not well-received at the time, has emerged with its own cult following. Then came “Split” (2017), a sorry excuse for a thriller that was saved by James McAvoy’s turn as a character with 24 different personalities, several of whom might emerge in a single scene. It was fascinating to watch even if the story was absurd. Then came the “surprise twist” at the end where the film, for no good reason, suddenly crossed paths with “Unbreakable.”
Thus we come to GLASS. After a not-very-interesting set up, David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) from “Unbreakable,” and Kevin Crumb (McAvoy) from “Split,” are all locked up at the same mental hospital. There, Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), is attempting to “cure” them by convincing them that they are not endowed with special superpowers, but are, in fact, ordinary people suffering from trauma and brain injuries.
Along for the ride are three actors from the previous films. Anya Taylor-Joy returns from “Split” to show her love and support for her former captor, while Charlayne Woodard repeats as Elijah’s mother and a grown-up Spencer Treat Clark returns as David’s son. As with Shyamalan’s other films, characters don’t act like human beings but are simply plot devices. So, when we get to this film’s “surprise twist” – it’s a set up for a potential sequel – it only works as much as you let it.
The three principal actors are trapped in their ridiculous characters. Jackson spends much of the film in a wheelchair, saying nothing and twitching. When he finally starts speaking you may wish he’d shut up. Willis’s character is similarly absurd, donning a poncho-like garment to become “The Overseer.” McAvoy gets to show his impressive range as various characters, and with luck will get the opportunity to show off his talent in the future in better movies.
An interesting footnote is the casting of Luke Kirby as one of the orderlies at the institution. Fans of the Amazon Prime series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” will recognize him for his startingly effective turn there bringing comedian Lenny Bruce back to life. It will undoubtedly do more for his career than appearing here.
For those shaking their heads and thinking that “Unbreakable” and “Split” were wonderful movies, you may well connect with “Glass.” It develops out of the forced marriage of the earlier films, and plays it out to a conclusion, albeit an open-ended one. However, if you didn’t like those movies or – lucky you – didn’t see them, don’t waste your time with this.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His new novel, Father of the Bride of Frankenstein, has just been released. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.