The Red Right Hand
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THE NUMBER 23
First It Takes Hold Of Your Mind... Then It Takes Hold Of Your Life

Director
Joel Schumacher
Starring
Jim Carrey
Virginia Madsen
Danny Huston
Lynn Collins

I was born on the nineteenth of April, 1984 (19/04/1984: 19+4=23 19+8-4=23). The importance and relevance of this situation? Absolutely nothing. One of the main characters, Isaac French [Huston] illustrates, "This is magical thinking, non-scientific, without cause or reason. You're looking for 23, so you're finding it." This film is divided in two. The first is the boring, mundane life of an animal control officer, Walter Sparrow [Carrey], the second is the plot of the book that he is currently reading. The second plot is a simple noir-styled tale about a detective (the strangely named Fingerling) who becomes obsessed with the mystical, hypnotic and seemingly omniscient qualities of the number. The film cuts back and forth as Sparrow reads on but more-and-more, a parallel is drawn between the two characters; supposedly undeniable similarities that drive Sparrow slowly insane. The number 23 is an actual phenomenon that has drawn much speculation and debate but I've come to believe that certain things reveal themselves to those who look; not necessarily prove themselves but definitely become more apparent.

Sparrows' wife, Agatha [Madsen], stumbles across a novel coated in paranoia and obsession. As it's his birthday, she buys it for him. Sparrow begins reading, only to discover that the similarities between the lead character and himself are spooky at first but then grow disturbingly accurate. Things become more distressing for our hero as he unearths a murder case from thirteen years ago. Once Carrey's character has finished the book, the noir element is dropped and creepy suspense thriller sent overboard. Believing the author to be the real killer, Sparrow sets out to find Topsy Kretts. From this point on, all hope is lost. Everything is far too coincidental and the script is just reaching beyond all plausibility. As a thriller, this film is fairly standard but still quite enjoyable in places. The main problem is the script, which is either too confusing for those who simply wish to be entertained or far too simplistic and flustered for those who enjoy intelligent flicks.

The cosmic coincidences that lace '23' present the opportunity to show the epic, apocalyptic elements of the number; instead, writer Fernley Phillips opts for a story of self-discovery. I can't say it was a poor choice but it was definitely poorly executed. Mid-way through I was reminded of Aronofsky's 1998 cult hit, Pi, which tells of a paranoid mathematician who searches for a key number that will unlock all the mysteries of the universe. The consequences and the ending are above and beyond anything The Number 23 could muster - which just leaves you feeling a little bewildered but mostly just annoyed. Other than Carrey's character everyone else seems to be underused, just playing off Sparrow's madness. Schumacher's directing is fairly pleasing but it is Matthew Libatique's (who worked on Pi, The Fountain and Inside Man) cinematography that proves to be the salvageable piece from this mess. Ultimately, this is a disappointment but still feels like it could lead to better things... except for Schumacher; he's screwed. I'm pretty sure everyone is sick of him now, least of all Batman fans.

Release Date:
23rd February 2007

The Scene To Look Out For:
Detective Fingerling spends time with a 'suicide blonde' [Collins], convincing her that she shouldn't do it. She is the one who first introduces the character to the number 23. Shortly after this scene, Carrey is walking down an alley way saying, "As I exit the building, I figure it's another job well done." A body drops to the ground in front of him. The only reason I highlighted it is because I imagine this is Joel Schumacher's perspective. Leaves the cinema thinking he's done a good job and then watches his efforts plummet before his eyes.

Notable Characters:
There are few things right about this film but Carrey is certainly one of them. Not dissimilar to Robin Williams, Carrey helps prove that the best on-screen psychotic killers are funny men. Psychologists state that a comedic personality is generally a defence mechanism, surrounding the subject with joy and protecting them from their own traumas. If Carrey pursues this angle I think we can expect great things.

Highlighted Quote:
"I don't care how many lunatics are fantasising about the number 23, they're wrong"

In A Few Words:
"If you want to see a film about a man driven insane by numbers, watch Pi; it's everything this movie wishes it could be"

Total Score:
3/10


Matthew Stogdon