On his birthday, Walter Sparrow, an amiable dog-catcher, takes a call that leaves him dog bit and late to pick up his wife. She's browsed in a bookstore, finding a blood-red-covered novel, a murder mystery with numerology that loops constantly around the number 23. The story captivates Walter: he dreams it, he notices aspects of his life that can be rendered by "23," he searches for the author, he stays in the hotel (in room 23) where events in the novel took place, and he begins to believe it was no novel. His wife and son try to help him, sometimes in sympathy, sometimes to protect him. Slowly, with danger to himself and to his family, he closes in on the truth.Written by
Has potential but the foundation of nonsense is never overcome
Lowly dogcatcher Walter Sparrow has his life changed when he comes into contact with a self-published novel by a mysterious author. Reading it, Walter finds eerie parallels between his life and the writer (Topsy Kretts no, really) but more than that he finds that the fictional observations may well be true. The character in the novel claims to have stumbled across the evil power of the number 23 finding it woven into all aspects of life. Walter starts out just interested in the story but as he looks into this claim he finds it to be true and quickly becomes obsessed with getting to the bottom of it all.
I like a good conspiracy-type film I do. My cynicism and bitterness sets me up to easily accept something much bigger than me ultimately working against me in ways that I cannot ever defeat. Sadly The number 23 is not a "good" film by any means and, although it all looks slick and professional, it is really very weak when you take away all the protection of budget and packaging and look at it in the cold light of day. In fact, it doesn't even take the cold light of day to expose 23 for what it is because it is hard to take it seriously when you are watching it. The problems are all the way from the very idea through the script because it never convinces and indeed scenes where the number is discussed ("32 or 23 reversed") are just ridiculous and I was never able to get passed this and get into the mystery any more than this.
It is a shame because deep down there is a nice idea here and I like the gradual twist but the delivery doesn't make the most of it. Perhaps lost in the silliness of it, the film cannot make the number thing work, even when it sort of becomes a side issue (in some small way). It all looks good and I thought the visual design of the film was quite impressive as was the device of having Walter putting himself within the novel as he read it; not only does it make things easier for the viewer but it also points to the root of the obsession. Carrey is actually OK here despite my worry that he would be really badly miscast. He works and even while the audience is snickering, one can believe that at least he believes if even if nobody else does. Madsen was better than I expected although generally she was best "within" the novel bits. Huston hangs round the edges failing to do much though.
Overall then this is a professional enough film that is slickly put together and has potential in every way if only some other device other than that bl00dy stupid number had been selected as the focus. As it is, the idea of destructive obsession is lost as many viewers will be too busy shouting "nonsense" at the screen while the script tries and fails to grip the audience with a thriller based on such tosh.
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