Artisan Entertainment | Release Date: March 10, 2000
8.8
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Universal acclaim based on 240 Ratings
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MovieMasterEddyApr 4, 2016
`The Ninth Gate': Off to Hell in a Handbasket, Trusty Book in Hand.

For those with an interest in seeing a dinner-theater version of "Eyes Wide Shut," then look no further. Roman Polanski's "Ninth Gate," with its wizened decadence --
`The Ninth Gate': Off to Hell in a Handbasket, Trusty Book in Hand.

For those with an interest in seeing a dinner-theater version of "Eyes Wide Shut," then look no further. Roman Polanski's "Ninth Gate," with its wizened decadence -- Darius Khondji's velveteen cinematography looks as if it came out of Rembrandt's Fotomat -- and its tired stabs at comedy, is calling your name.

Frank Langella, wearing a hairpiece that is most assuredly from the Stygian depths of Hell, is Boris Balkan, a wealthy and therefore evil collector of Devil-inspired antiquities who hires Dean Corso (Johnny Depp), a weedy rogue book dealer, to locate a volume called "The Nine Gates."

You can tell that Corso is a rebel kind of book dealer: he smokes as he pores over vintage tomes and he doesn't wear gloves to keep his skin oils from the delicate pages. Balkan hires Corso to find the volume that will unlock the Nine Gates.

The book is so pernicious that it drives an elderly man to hang himself from a noose that doesn't look capable of supporting a pair of socks.

Equipped with debonair slashes of white across the sides of his head, Corso begins a search that will take him over several continents and at least 90 minutes because there are three versions of the book in question. He must ascertain which "Gates" is authentic and stay a step ahead of Liana (Lena Olin), who cuts a striking figure in black; she was born to be a widow. It was her husband who killed himself, driven mad by some intoxicating combination of her fatale figure and having such a horrific tome in his possession.

Aided by his aerodynamic hair detailing, Corso goes from one "Gates" owner to another to check out their copies. He's pursued by a sylph (Emmanuelle Seigner) with the vacant stare and bored pout of a 14-year-old idly channel-surfing in hopes of finding MTV's Carson Daly. She races across Europe after Corso.

Is she on Corso's side? Will Balkan get Satan's powers in his clutches through mastery of "The Nine Gates"? And what about Satan? Since the rich in these Devil-quest spectaculars are always searching for the Devil but often come to a bad end, does this mean he's a socialist? Or perhaps, since money attracts money, that he's a supply-sider? These are questions to be answered sooner or later in an issue of Cahiers du Cinéma. Or The Industry Standard.

In adapting the European slight-fright best seller "El Club Dumas," Mr. Polanski is out to cross "Rosemary's Baby" with his saucy spoof "The Fearless Vampire Killers," but this movie is about as scary as a sock-puppet re-enactment of "The Blair Witch Project," and not nearly as funny.

There's no leading man less interested in staying close to type than Mr. Depp. His Dean Corso is a craven hustler who makes the detached, cowardly Ichabod Crane he portrayed in "Sleepy Hollow" seem as forceful as Buffy the Vampire Slayer; he shows no interest in vesting learned characters with courage. Mr. Polanski's reflexes are gone, so all he can do is watch the camera pass gracefully from set to set.
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b0mbardiniJan 11, 2014
Interesting story, yet cheesy dialogue and lame directing. Could have been epic had someone like maybe David Lynch directed it. Very boring.. disappointing.
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GaryK.Mar 3, 2001
I found it slow paced and boring. The ending is rather abrupt and unsatisfying.
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