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Toronto Star Review: ‘Flatliners’ amounts to uninspired, redundant viewing experience
The remake of this original Kiefer Sutherland/Julia Roberts blockbuster might be boring if it wasn’t so unintentionally funny. by Ryan Porter, published on Saturday, September 30, 2017 - 7:22 PM
When Jamie Lee Curtis is making the 10th Halloween movie, Linda Hamilton is all-in on the sixth Terminator movie, and buzzy TV shows include Will & Grace and Twin Peaks, is remaking the 1990 thriller Flatliners really that redundant? As it turns out, yes!
While the original Kiefer Sutherland/Julia Roberts blockbuster was hardly a classic, apparently our collective mediocre memory of its existence was enough to justify another crack at the story of hot young med students who toy with stopping each other’s hearts in order to experiment with near-death experiences. The 2017 version, shot in Toronto (we accept no responsibility), begins on sturdy footing as it follows Canada’s beloved pocket-talent Ellen Page in her experiments to visit the other side — which, unimaginatively, looks like this side, but with an Instagram filter.
Once the film has burned through that initial flush of concept, Flatliners is just another Final Destination or Urban Legend or I Know What You Did Last Residency. One by one, the med students, including Toronto’s Degrassi turned Vampire Diaries star Nina Dobrev and Kiersey Clemons, who will play The Flash’s love interest Iris West in the upcoming Justice League movie, stop their hearts and visit the afterlife, where they confront their deepest personal trauma. As haunting traumas are wont to do, those follow our heroes back to the land of the living where they loom over and/or murder our band of beautiful med students.
This would be boring if it wasn’t so unintentionally funny. The cast, including Star Wars: Rogue One’s Diego Luna, are fully committed to the dumb-as-a-cadaver material.
Take the low-key sexual tension between the ridiculously gorgeous Dobrev and Luna as they smoulder in their lab coats, swapping medical jargon. It is easier to swallow that you could die, visit your dead relatives, and return to the world than it is to believe these two would be in med school.
Or take the film’s idea of a wild party: high on the adrenalin of cheating death, Page’s Courtney and James Norton’s Jamie rip down a wall, spray each other with whip cream, make out, and then run into the streets in their underwear to frolic in the snow. Another amazingly mindless sequence has a character sneak into the morgue to retrieve another character’s phone, which has been zipped inside her body bag alongside her lifeless body, because God forbid that we would be separated from our phones even in death.
Sutherland has a cameo that adds nothing beyond evidence that everyone was aware this movie was an uninspired, crass cash grab. Considering that it was not screened for critics and that a Friday afternoon showing had all of 12 people at it, this was probably not a wise investment. But credit where it is due: Dobrev rules this film like a regal B-movie queen. The 28-year-old could have a long career as the best thing about movies even worse than this one.