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June 2011

The Devil's Tomb

cast: Cuba Gooding Jr, Ron Perlman, Ray Winstone, Valerie Cruz, and Stephanie Jacobsen

director: Jason Connery

90 minutes (15) 2010
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Lions Gate DVD Region 2

RATING: 4/10
review by Matthew S. Dent

The Devil's Tomb

Once in a while, a film comes along that I cannot pre-judge it. A film whose nature and premise confuses me so much that I can only watch in silent awe. Or something like that, at any rate. The Devil's Tomb features a hard-as-nails special forces team led by Cuba Gooding Jr, going on a classified mission they know far too little about, to recover a missing scientist from a hole in the ground in somewhere which is strongly hinted to be Iraq. Except there are zombies down there, or it might be the devil, or maybe aliens. But there's definitely Ron Perlman.

That's the fundamental feeling I get from The Devil's Tomb, that it's never sure what it wants to be. At its heart I'm fairly sure it's an action film, due to all those guns, and army boots, and the endless, dripping militaristic cliché. But it's trying desperately hard to be something more than that, which is something encouraging, I guess. The problem comes, though, with the zombies. A team of soldiers fighting off the undead-and-uncooperative is nothing new when it comes to horror films, and the only new thing that The Devil's Tomb brings to the table is that these zombies are chattier than most, with their own pseudo-satanistic religious mumblings.

The acting talent varies drastically, with most of the cast being fairly resolutely B-movie stock. Gooding Jr feels like he's phoning it in most of the time, with poorly cut flashbacks seeing him staring off into the middle distance like he's forgotten his lines, and actually explaining nothing in the long run. And Ray Winstone may as well not be there. It's not that he's bad, it's just that he's not given much to do, and it's never really made clear why he's there.

On the other hand, though, Ron Perlman is fairly impressive. It was a bit surprising at first to see him playing a scientist, especially when there are so many macho soldier roles going. But he pulls it off brilliantly, showing the acting flair that has come closer to the fore with such films as Hellboy.

The Devil's Tomb can't be dismissed as a simple B-movie. It's something more than that. There's so much potential there, with the actors and with the ideas. But it ends up being unfulfilled. Perlman is very good, but in this particular film, that's a lonely position to occupy. It isn't a bad film, but it left me feeling disappointed in the end, simply because for a little while I'd thought it could actually be good.



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