Oddball mystery that I suspect is not for everyone. Joel Grey plays a psychic, Franklyn Wills, who wants to help the cops solve a gruesome parking lot murder. On their first meeting he establishes some credibility by knowing a number of details not mentioned in the media, thus provoking the curiosity of head cop Lee Tucker (Robertson). How, we wonder, does Wills know these details. Is he a real psychic or maybe even the killer himself just playing games with the cops. Thus begins a stormy collaboration between the head cop and the psychic, as Lee not only investigates the murder but has to figure out what's going on with Wills who keeps coming up with more interesting facts.
This is one of the more unsettling films I've seen, mainly because Wills' behavior is completely unpredictable when he goes into his sudden psychic trances. He may leap on a desk, roll on the floor, or go into jerky spasms no matter where he is. Grey is an elfin-like presence anyway, so these sudden seizures are truly disturbing, even scary. When not in a clairvoyant state, he's not what you'd suspect from a killer, all smiles and disarming demeanor, even when Lee throws him against a wall in utter frustration. All in all, Grey delivers a cunning performance, one of the most unusual I've seen. His Franklyn Wills remains truly an enigma.
In contrast, Robertson wisely low-keys his role, with a deadpan expression, soft voice, and unblinking stare as he observes the strange little man who seems in communication with something—but what. And when Lee and his wife start getting strange phone calls and knocks on the door, everyone figure it's got to be Wills, but why. What could he hope to gain. His behavior seems beyond strange.
In a sense, the movie dwells almost obsessively with the relationship between these two. There are no real subplots or principal characters apart from them. Thus, it's two hours of trying to figure out whether Wills is a true psychic or not. The fact that the film is based on a true story makes the mystery even more intriguing. I suspect many folks are put off by the morbid undertones of the unvarying plot, and that plus an unconventional ending may have something to do with the film's obscurity. Nonetheless, for some folks, like me, it's a fascinating sleeper, with its own style of intrigue, and continues to cast a haunting spell.
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