Run time: 2 hours 9 minutes
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, Sarah Paulson, Bruce Willis
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Love him or hate him, twist-ending king M. Night Shyamalan, 48, is a movie industry survivor. The writer-director's latest overlong but entertaining superhero comic book mishmash is a win — though it doesn't reach the heights of his Signs or The Sixth Sense, nor the depths of Lady in the Water and After Earth. For his 12th movie, he brings together his trio of leading men — Bruce Willis, 63, Samuel L. Jackson, 70, and James McAvoy, 39. And he collides their characters from 2000's comic-book movie Unbreakable ($218M worldwide) and 2016's psycho serial killer thriller Split ($278M worldwide) into a lumpy but flavorful stew perfectly suited for the January chill.
McAvoy's multiple-personality sufferer Kevin Wendell Crumb from Split continues to work through mother issues while chaining up a cheerleading squad in an abandoned Philadelphia warehouse. It's wicked (and disturbing) fun to see this BAFTA-winning British actor cycle through his committee of characters, male and female, old and young, powerful and cowering, including innocent charmer Kevin and demonic The Beast — and don't forget prim, controlling Patricia. The crazies chew the scenery but, to McAvoy's credit, one never feels the actor does. His horrors are all the scarier because of the vulnerability of the weaker players in his psyche.
Pursuing Crumb is Willis’ paranoid avenger, supernatural security guard David Dunn. While Dunn tries to remain under the radar and low-key (represented by Willis with a permanent lockjaw and none of the cheeky dialogue he's famous for), he's a super-strong Dudley Do-Right type who can't help but go after Crumb before he kills again.
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Enter sleek corporate psychiatrist Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson, 44), an arrogant know-it-all who's so focused on the crazy that she can't differentiate between heroes and villains. Does she really toss Dunn and Crumb in Raven Hill Memorial Psychiatric Research Center with brittle-boned bad boy Elijah Price, aka Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson)? That can't be a good idea. It's not.
Jackson goes all Snakes on a Plane, ranging from a catatonic invalid with dark eyes like hallways into hell to a criminal mastermind who sees an opportunity in joining with Crumb to escape confinement and loose hell upon the meek citizenry. If this is not the $1 billion star's acting highlight, credit him with stealing every scene he's in and making some in the audience long for a Price standalone movie.
While the nerdy dialogue ruminates thoughtfully on good and evil, reality as comic book and comic-book reality, the film's peaks are the loopy set pieces. You'll relish a full-bore physical finale between Dunn and Crumb, in which the unbreakable hero encounters the cracked villain without Marvel overkill, while Mr. Glass snarks on the sidelines.
Is the Glass half-empty or half-full? Just let it break, suspend disbelief and let the M. Night rise with three actors who always entertain.