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Split

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    Mark Tolch
    Senior Member

  • Split



    Released By: Universal
    Released On: April 18, 2017.
    Director: M. Night Shyamalan
    Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula
    Year: 2016
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    A number of years ago, I sat in a theatre with my mouth hanging open widely, a dazed look in my eye, popcorn hanging and Coke dripping from my bottom lip, as the magnificent twist ending of M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense unfolded. "Holy fucking shit", said I, "I did not see that coming.". The ending stuck with me for a number of months, and revisiting the film on DVD was a eureka-filled excursion as I uncovered all of the clues that Shyamalan, obviously a goddam GENIUS, had put in place. When his next film, Unbreakable was released, I was in the theatre on that first weekend, convinced that I was going to see another mind-blowing film. And, while it was acceptable, it didn't come close to touching The Sixth Sense. Signs....crap. The Village...crappier. Lady In The Water? No words for that one. Out-crapped only by The Happening, which didn't just suck, it sucked ANGRILY, leaving me ranting at the end credits. It seemed that M. Night Shyamalan was a one-and-a-half trick pony, who had blown out all of his talent at the beginning of his career, with the rest of his work an uninspiring, salty mess of goo.

    But, NO!, sayeth the people, 2016's M. Night Shyamalan flick SPLIT is a return to form, an amazingly creepy flick that stars James McAvoy in a challenging role that he pulls off admirably. Well worth seeing, sayeth the people, and so, I saw. Out of the gate, Split is a surprisingly simple film, with a very minimal plot. Three girls are abducted, drugged unconscious, and taken to an unknown location, locked in a room. The abductor appears almost immediately after they awaken, and proceeds to drag one of them out of the room with the apparent intention of sexually assaulting her, but she's returned without being harmed. Before long, the abductor returns...this time, dressed as a woman named Patricia...and assures the girls that such actions will not be repeated. The captives are understandably confused, but the situation becomes clearer as their captor shows up again as a nine year-old named Hedwig, and then again as his apparent self, a regular old kidnapper named Dennis.

    This is the driving force behind Split; the tale of a somewhat ordinary man who has created different personalities to shield him from childhood drama. On the surface, he appears to be functioning well, as his doctor, Karen Fletcher, indicates; he has held down a job longer than most other patients with his disorder, and appears happy and outgoing, sharing his fashion design drawings with his psychiatrist and assuring her that everything is fine, just fine. But Fletcher slowly realizes that something is quite amiss when she discovers that her patient, who normally shows up for appointments as "Barry" is actually, "Dennis"; the take-charge personality that none of the other personalities seem to like. As she probes deeper, Dennis is prompted to discuss the coming of "The Beast", a hidden personality who has skin tougher than leather and a thirst for the blood of the impure, in this case, personified by three female captives.

    As Fletcher connects the dots and decides to investigate Barry/Dennis' place of work, the girls, led by Casey, try to convince the man-boy Hedwig to go against the other personalities and let them go. Hedwig, however, is having none of that, and Dennis and Patricia reappear to inform the girls that they're not going anywhere except literally into the belly of The Beast. Three girls and one doctor clearly outnumber one kidnapper...unless that one kidnapper has over twenty personalities, one of which is a supernatural monster. And if Fletcher's research is any indication, they won't stand a chance once The Beast arrives.

    A lot has been made of James McAvoy's performance in this film, and to be fair, he's quite good in his multiple singular role(s). But let's be honest here, the man is not Daniel Day-Lewis. The characters that he's playing are not so far removed from one another, and it's not like he's undergoing a physical transformation on his own, which is what the reviews would imply. He's certainly more than adequate, and I'm sure that the dance moves required for one memorable scene from the film were difficult to learn. Yes, he put on a dress and spoke with a posh accent. Yes, he put on a shirt and spoke with a....Boston? accent. And he certainly got VERY angry at one point. He's good, but not mind-blowing. The rest of the cast sit largely in the background behind McAvoy, though both Anya Taylor-Joy and Betty Buckley do have a chance to shine here and there, and the child actor playing young Casey in the flashback scenes is quite good.

    Clearly, however, M. Night Shyamalan has put all of his money on McAvoy's performance to carry Split across the finish line; and that is a mistake. Once again, Shyamalan has proven himself as a fantastic Director; so many sequences in Split come across wonderfully and beautifully framed with an impeccable eye for detail, and he builds suspense and apprehension like a pro; but the man is not a good writer, even though box office receipts indicate that he's sufficient in what he does. But like so many of his other films, the basic premise is intriguing, the science here is thought-provoking, and the film LOOKS fantastic, but the story twiddles around like an almost-deflated balloon and ends with a flatulent whimper of dissatisfaction. To Shyamalan's credit, there's no attempt at an "ohmygod!" twist ending, and the mystery isn't solved because of something that some character heard their ancient grandmother tell them as a child (Lady In The Water, Devil), but that's not enough to save Split, nor is the lame Unbreakable fan jerkoff moment at the end that attempts to tie the films together. Split isn't a terrible film, it's not even a bad film, it's just...okay.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Split comes to Universal Blu-ray (with included DVD and HD download) in a 2.40:1 AVC-encoded transfer that looks fantastic. No artifacts are present, Shyamalan's eye for composition and detail is presented wonderfully, blacks are solid, and dimly-lit scenes, of which there are many, maintain clarity with no issue.

    The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is equally as impressive, with dialogue front and center, with the surrounds used to subtly weave the excellent score throughout the picture. French and Spanish lossy DTS tracks are available also, as well as English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles, and Descriptive Video Service.

    An Alternate Ending is available, with optional introduction from M. Night Shyamalan, but it's only about 30 seconds long after a minute introduction, and it's not good. As mediocre as the film's current ending is, this one would certainly have ruined the film further.

    9 Deleted Scenes (26:37 with Intros) are included, again with the option to have Shyamalan explain why they were cut. A few of them are worth seeing, but wisely left out of the film.

    The Making of Split (9:50) features clips from the film as well as on-set footage and cast and crew talking about the movie and their reactions to reading the script.

    The Many Faces of James McAvoy (5:38) features Shyamalan, McAvoy, and other cast members discussing the challenge of playing a man with multiple distinct personalities.

    The Filmmaker's Eye: M. Night Shyamalan (3:40) is a fluff piece in which Shyamalan, Jason Blum, and others discuss the Director's vision from the basic premise through to the completion.

    The Final Word:

    Is Split M. Night Shyamalan's best film in decades? Probably. Is it good? Meh. For fans of the film, however, the Universal Blu-ray looks and sounds great.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





















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