InSight (2011) Movie Review

“InSight” is a twisty, manipulative, and surprisingly unpredictable thriller from actor/director Richard Gabai, whose credits up to now have been teen-friendly fare like “Popstar”, “Call of the Wild 3D”, and “Motocross Kids”. (You know, the kind of films you watch when no one knows you’re watching?) He’s also an actor, with roles in some truly horrific B-movies over the years (including as a regular in the films of one Fred Olen Ray, and if you don’t know who Fred Olen Ray is, then you’ve been denying yourself some truly awful direct-to-DVD B-movies). Gabai’s latest is a major detour from his usual stuff, with the director diving into a mind trip screenplay from Aaron Ginsburg and Wade McIntyre that, while it looks to be treading familiar territory, nevertheless manages to pull off a couple of surprises anyway.

“InSight” stars “Justified’s” Natalie Zea as Kaitlyn, a E.R. nurse who finds herself trying to solve a murder mystery after a girl name Allison (Angeline-Rose Troy) is wheeled into her hospital more dead than alive. After a paddle mishap knocks Kaitlyn out cold, she wakes up to find that she might have inherited the dead girl’s memories. Maybe. Being the intrepid type, Kaitlyn takes it upon herself to solve Allison’s murder. She’ll have to convince doubting police Detective Peter Rafferty (Sean Patrick Flanery, one-half of the notorious “Boondock Saints”) first, though. When Kaitlyn reveals to Rafferty that she’s having Allison’s visions, the Detective promptly threatens to throw her in jail. Fortunately for the couple, there’s a bit of a spark there, and Rafferty decides to give our budding crimefighter some leeway. He’s further convinced that some unexplainable shenanigans are afoot when Kaitlyn produces a major piece of evidence that furthers Rafferty’s investigation.

So who exactly killed young Allison? Was it her D.J.’ing boyfriend? The creepy next door neighbor played by a creepy Christopher Lloyd? The sleazy therapist she was seeing, played by “Firefly’s” Adam Baldwin? Well if I were to tell you who the killer was, what would be the point of watching the movie? And certainly the screenplay for “InSight” has more on its mind than a simple supernatural-tinged murder mystery. In a rarity for the genre, “InSight” delves (quite very well, I might add) into some pretty heavy themes that I didn’t see coming at all. Besides her day gig as an E.R. nurse and her night gig as a crimefighter, the rest of Kaitlyn’s time is taken up with caring for her ill and bed-ridden mother (genre vet Veronica Cartwright), a fixture of our heroine’s life that provides plenty of drama in its own right.

Free of the Kentucky wilds of “Justified”, Natalie Zea is excellent as the proactive Kaitlyn, a harried heroine who has assigned herself the rather tangential crusade of solving Allison’s murder come hell or high water. Kaitlyn declares more than once that if the cops won’t do anything (they have since written the murder off as a simple mugging, the lazy bums), it’s up to her to take action. Her friends, of course, are rightfully concern about this, particularly fellow nurse and best pal Valerie (“Spartacus'” Lesley-Ann Brandt). Kaitlyn does eventually get some official help when Rafferty starts to believe her, but of course it doesn’t help that she’s not hard on the eyes. Hey, young Indiana Jones may solve crimes for a living, but he’s still a guy, you know. Flanery has some nice moments, but let’s face it, this is Zea’s show.

Although director Richard Gabai does a good job of keeping the film moving, the mystery constantly intriguing, and Kaitlyn’s reality questionable at every turn, the film does feature a somewhat static feel. I suspect this is due to the film’s moderate budget, which limits what the movie can do, though it certainly doesn’t affect the film’s primary performance or the fact that “InSight” is highly involving, with enough twists and turns in the Third Act to keep audience members on their toes. Although I was very disappointed that Christopher Lloyd has what amounts to a cameo appearance in the film. Which is a shame, since no one plays kooky next-door neighbor quite like Lloyd. Hell, no one plays kooky quite like Lloyd, period. I kept expecting him to show up later in the film, but he has what amounts to a single sequence and done.

“InSight” offers up a fantastic Third Act plot twist that, I have to admit, I didn’t see coming, though thinking back, Gabai and the script certainly dropped plenty of clues along the way. Of course the whole thing wouldn’t work without Zea’s outstanding performance, and it’s not too much of an overstatement to say that she carries “InSight” like a real champ. I’ve only seen Zea in the FX Channel’s “Justified”, and while it’s a role that plays to the actor’s sass, playing Winona Hawkings to Timothy Olyphant’s trigger happy U.S. Marshall can be very limiting. Now that I know what Zea can do with good material, it’ll be hard to accept her as Raylan’s side B-plot on the show. Just saying, “Justified” guys — give the little lady more to do, dammit. She can handle it and then some.

“InSight” opens in select theaters September 2nd. Check your local listings.

Richard Gabai (director) / Aaron Ginsburg, Wade McIntyre (screenplay)
CAST: Sean Patrick Flanery … Det. Peter Rafferty
Natalie Zea … Kaitlyn
Angeline-Rose Troy … Allison
Adam Baldwin … Dr. Graham Barrett
Veronica Cartwright … Patricia
Christopher Lloyd … Shep
Max Perlich … Det. Canto
Lesley-Ann Brandt … Valerie Khoury

Buy InSight on DVD