M. Night Shyamalan’s new film “Split,” which releases wide today is a psychological thriller that hit the jackpot by casting the tremendously talented James McAvoy, grandstanding in an acting grandiose way, playing a psychotic teen abductor.
The film opens with his obviously troubled self (two dozen personalities give or take) kidnapping three teenage girls in a parking lot. The following saga has audiences, depending on their age — ok I have to say it — split. At the screening I saw in Hollywood older members of the audience tended not to like it as much as the younger ones I spoke with. They thought the film was ‘really cool.’
Frustrations abound. From “The Sixth Sense” on, Shyamlan has been living on borrowed time. Granted, he’s had higher moments with O “Signs” “The Village,” “Unbreakable.” But the misfires are legendary at this point. We keep waiting for a return to the magic of “The Sixth Sense.” And it doesn’t seem to be coming.
“Split” is basically a one man show piece for McAvoy. Not to say that the actresses don’t hold their own, especially Anya Taylor of “The Witch.” The always glorious Betty Buckley plays McAvoy’s long-suffering therapist with genuine compassion. The film does have some of Shyamalan’s signature moves (and he himself has a cameo) terrific flashbacks, unexpected twists etc. There are moments of true artistry in “Split.” But it’s uncomfortable to watch because then it falls apart and makes no sense. You are left wondering, What exactly is going on here? The ending is, yes kind of ‘cool’ indeed, but again we who knew Shyamalan’s work way back then still yearn for more. So sparing the obvious pun, I’m on both sides of the fence on this one.