The Reaping
Director: Stephen Hopkins (Blown Away, Judgment Night, Predator 2)
Story: Brian Rousso
Screenplay: Carey Hayes & Chad Hayes
Producers: Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis, Susan L. Levin, Herb Gains
Starring: Hilary Swank, David Morrissey, Idris Elba, AnnaSophia Robb, Stephen Rea
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 96 min
read my spoiler disclaimer

reviewed by Andrew James
     What's the deal with Hilary Swank? Seriously. She's a two time Academy Award winner and a hell of a nice girl. I absolutely adore her and nearly all her roles. But lately her taste and choice of roles has just been a bit... off. The Reaping is no different. Oh, she pulls it off okay because she's Hilary Swank, but the movie's subject matter and script is so beneath someone of this caliber. What can she be thinking?

      Swank plays Katherine, a young intelligent college professor with a gift for finding the science in what the less educated locals feel are divine phenomena. She is also an ordained minister but has since lost her faith for reasons that are explained within the picture. When she's called to a southern, hick town to investigate why the river has turned blood red, she may have found something more than she can explain away with science. Along for the ride is her colleague and friend, Ben and her contact within the town, an elementary school science teacher named Doug. Is there romance in the air between Doug and Katherine, or is it something much more personal?

      Really the only good thing about this film is Swank's presence. She barely manages to carry the movie on her shoulders. The only time I was happy was when she was on screen; which is 95% of the time, so it works out. Two of her monologues in particular really stand out. I loved her 2 minute, scientific explanation of the biblical plagues (I'd actually like to try and memorize it). The side characters are okay too, but nothing special. With the amount of odd and, at times, corny dialogue these people are forced to say, they hold up surprisingly well.

      I was anxious to see how the plagues would be pulled off and who was responsible for them. Is it God? Satan? Or some perfectly explainable, scientific reason? or is it something else completely? Despite the predictability of the characters actions and the general sense of what was to happen next, the good news is that I wasn't sure how the actual plagues would be explained until very close to the end.

      Of course you can't really have fire from the sky and millions of locusts invade a small town without the magic of special effects. Unfortunately there wasn't a whole lot of magic and they definitely weren't all that special. They were adequate, but nothing we've come to expect from Hollywood over the past decade. The CGI cows were probably the best (or worst) example of how not to do CGI creatures.

      What started out as kind of a blatant rip on spirituality (stupid, superstitious, pathetic people) slowly evolves into more of a tale on believing than it is for non-believing. But those looking for some kind of Sunday school, story time will be let down as it is far too preposterous and tripe; not to mention the amounts of foul language and violence.

      The camera work is rushed and unsteady. There's nothing I hate more than a jittery cameraman; and that's exactly what we've got here. Usually this kind of tactic is used for fight scenes or moments of chaos. Here it's used all the time and for no good reason. It does take a toll on the eyes after a while. Couple this with some spastic editing during a few hallucinations or flashbacks, and we've got some odd art tactics going on here. And I still don't even get the flashbacks. Were they visions from God or some other weird premonition... or maybe she was just remembering? It was hard to tell and to be honest, I really don't care anymore.

      Really there's nothing here that we haven't seen before from countless other "horror" films. The Reaping borrows from all of these openly and greedily. If it weren't for the fact that Swank spends much of the film in a sheer white skirt so we can see her gorgeous silhouette sashaying around or the general interest I had in seeing what the explanation for the plagues would be, I might've left the theater to come home and take a nap. The story really had potential to be something interesting and it does give a worthy effort in this regard, but it just falls flat on too many points for it to succeed. But I do now plan to read Exodus again though.

Press "PLAY" to watch the trailer

Links: - full cast and crew
Official Site