Roman Polanski conjures strong emotions, whether for his undeniable past brilliance as a filmmaker or his three-decades-and-counting child sex case. But his new film, "The Ghost Writer," isn't likely to evoke much of anything in either his fans or his critics.
Starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan, the film follows an author, The Ghost (McGregor), hired to ghostwrite the memoir of embattled former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Brosnan, offering shades of both Tony Blair and a slimmer Bill Clinton) after the first writer dies of an apparent suicide. No sooner has The Ghost taken the job than he's getting mugged, being followed and discovering there are much darker forces at work than he first believed.
It's a classic setup, one that should have been a walk in the park for any director. Instead, it's a poorly executed bore that's forgettable at best and laughable at worst.
Polanski's virtuosity has been well demonstrated. "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" are part of the Pantheon of film history. But watching "The Ghost Writer" you can't help but wonder who was in the driver's seat this time around because it seems impossible that it's the same man who helmed "The Piano."
From the bad CGI to the unforgivable English accent Kim Cattrall puts on as Lang's aide to the multiple Kung Fu-style voiceovers where someone obviously drops an f-bomb that comes out as "sodding" or "bugger, " the film is stacked with glaring mistakes any director, let alone one of Polanski's caliber, should be ashamed of.
And then there's the acting. We always believed Ewan McGregor could read the phone book and be compelling. Turns out we were wrong. Doe eyed and constantly bewildered, his Ghost, a title that proves instantly cloying, is like the blonde bimbo in horror movies who always runs into the basement. You want to shake him and scream, "No dummy, the other way!" Thankfully both Brosnan and Olivia Williams, as his long suffering wife, are pitch perfect.
The biggest question of this film, which is actually a commentary on the war on terror posing as an old fashioned thriller, is why doesn't basic logic apply? If it's so easy for the audience to figure out what's going to happen, why can't the characters? Predictable, dull and bizarrely dated, it feels like a really long "Ripped From the Headlines" episode of "Law & Order." Just not as good.