Johnny Depp unlocks the gates to hell in Roman Polanski's gothic thriller. Depp stars as Dean Corso, an unscrupulous rare-book dealer who is hired to locate the last remaining copies of "The Nine Gates of the Shadow Kingdo... more »m," a demonic manuscript that can summon the Devil. Corso becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involving murder, theft and satanic ritual, and ultimately finds himself confronting the Devil incarnate.« less
M. Nichols | West Chester, OH United States | 07/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I approached this DVD with caution, never having seen the film before and noting its three-star review here, but I came away incredibly satisfied.
I partially blame the trailers for this film for the disappointment expressed in some of these reviews (the rest of the blame rests simply on the closed minds of today's moviegoers). When I first saw the trailer I expected a terrifying occult film filled with demons and supernatural happenings. That would've been an easier film to make. What I saw, however, was so much better.
This is a slow-paced film, which moves along quietly, gracefully, and keeps you glued to the screen for its entirety. Cast performances are all wonderful, especially Depp, of course, who continues to choose the most interesting projects in film today. There are no grotesque demons and very few special effects. Polanski's subtle touch creates images that etch themselves in your mind nonetheless. One example is the wheelchair-bound Baroness careening across the room to burst into her office (don't want to spoil any more). Suffice it to say that certain images in this film are as terrifyingly memorable as Kubrick's twins in THE SHINING, for example.
Although this film is not a "horror" film by any standards, I found myself genuinely scared throughout. Evil is always just around the corner. You never doubt its existence and you're terrified of the moment when it may reveal itself."
The Prince of Darkness comes into his own
takintime | Raleigh, NC USA | 07/20/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Empty your mind of all preconceived ideas about this film before viewing, and it will be a very worthwhile experience. It is not a horror film. It is definitely an occult film that takes a fresh look at the old theme of His Unholiness making an appearance on earth. The Ninth Gate has a superior cast who perform their parts well under the direction of a director with a worldwide reputation for genius, especially when it comes to depicting the darker matters of the mind. The film is what you would expect from such a combination of human talent. The strictly human characters display themselves in such a way that it becomes possible to read their minds and feel their motives. In so doing, the necessity of the one supernatural character becomes abundantly clear.Johnny Depp plays Curso, a dealer in and locator of rare books who, as Balkan (Langella's character) points out, is worthy of trust because his loyalty can be bought. Balkan pays the right price to have Depp travel from New York to Lisbon and Paris in search of the two other copies of a rare book Balkan has recently acquired--one that was supposedly co-authored by the Devil and one of his most loyal disciples, the latter of whom was burned at the stake in the 1600's for his own loyalty. Balkan insists that he thinks only one copy of the book is genuine, and he wants to make sure his copy is the one.It is obvious that Depp has no idea what he is getting himself into, but for all his cynical disregard of humanity, he becomes the "innocent" in this story, because he is the one person who becomes aware and admits early on that he has no idea what he has gotten into. Balkan says he obtained his copy of the book in a true sale from the owner just before the owner committed suicide. However, the former owner's widow insists that the book is hers and becomes the first person trying to kill Curso in an effort to get it back--after the best of feminine wiles don't get the job done. At this point Curso's "guardian angel", whom he calls Green Eyes, enters the picture in the guise of a wandering college student whose appearances at first inspire distrust and apprehension until she begins the rather pleasant habit of repeatedly saving Curso's life.The mysterious "keys" that will open the Ninth Gate and let the Devil break through are contained in the set of nine woodcuts within each book. The woodcuts each contain interesting jumbled adaptations of various images from the Tarot's Major Arcana--combinations that give a clue to anyone familiar with the cards and their meanings that everyone's traditional ideas regarding the occult were either dead wrong all along or they are about to undergo--forgive the expression--one hell of a change. Curso notes that there are significant variations in the woodcuts in each volume of the three existing copies of the book. Apparaently some were drawn by the Devil himself and some by his advocate.Curso also notes that he is now being hounded not only by the avaricious widow and her hit man, but also by Balkan, who seems to know his every move, not to mention having knowledge about the violent deaths of the owners of the other two manuscripts. Finally it is revealed that Balkan and the widow are involved in a literal battle to the death to become the Master who controls the Ninth Gate and the group of Devil worshippers who are this century's congregation of those who have been waiting for that Master since the book was first printed 350 years earlier.There is humor throughout this film, providing necessary comic relief at some very tense moments. That humor is nowhere more evident than in the scene in which the widow (who has managed to temporarily regain Balkan's copy of the book) is leading the gathering of pathetic self-styled Satanists in an even more pathetic, sterotypical black mass. The scene at its opening is so mundane, you want to groan. Then as it progresses, you realize that is part of the director's intentional imagery to show how stupid the theories about conjuring up and dealing with Old Scratch have always been.This guy is supposed to be the all powerful Prince of Darkness, right? This is the guy who can take your soul into hell for all eternity if you agree to the arrangement. And yet throughout history it is believed that if you draw a circle around a pentagram on the ground or floor and stand in it, then mutter a few incantations, the Devil will appear with his forked tail between his legs and do whatever you ask. This is the powerful adversary of the Almighty? Polanski has a very refreshing spin on that idea. In The Ninth Gate we see Satan as a stronger contender--one perfectly capable of appointing his "chosen one" among men. Tired, evidently, of insulting requests to preside as Master of Ceremonies at orgies and to give individual megalomaniacs the power to rule the world, the Devil has decided to run the show himself and to confer the honors of being his Commander in Chief on a person who has proven himself a champion on the battlefield of mundane evil. As for that "obscure" ending, we see Curso walking alone toward the last eerie combination of Tarot symbols--The Star (hope) imposed over the twin towers of The Moon (a card generally having to do with the deepest and sometimes most sinister elements of the occult). One tower is behind the other, giving the appearance of the two merging into one Tower (symbol of total destruction). Evidently the party games are over.A richly textured, beautifully filmed and well-acted modern gothic tale. I highly recommend it."
One big adventure for Depp into the unknown
squidx | UK | 11/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I watched this not knowing what was in store for me, and at the end of the movie, I was completely in awe of this powerful story. Johnny Depp's acting is good, but his somewhat scrawny body and his aged looks just weren't the reason why this movie kept me in my seat throughout. No doubt the story isn't very realistic - its basically about the forces - mainly the evil forces - in life - greed, lust, power... and Johnny Depp plays an underhanded book dealer who is employed by Balkan (Langella) to go on a trip to Europe to research an ancient Satanic book's authenticity. This entire movie is about Johnny Depp taking one long and life-threatening adventure tackling issues beyond what he normally avoids in real life.Emmanuelle Seigner (and this is just some gossip for you - she's Polanski's wife in real-life!) plays the mysterious woman who appears to help Depp everytime he's faced with a life-or-death situation, and this casts suspicion on her true identity - is she human or is she not? What is she? These are all the questions that Polanski poses to the viewer as you go through the film watching Depp go through his journey which seems to be like a cat-and-mouse chase between him and the greedy people who are after the book's secrets. Seigner is completely mesmerising in her own right. She is very interesting to watch and so charismatic - and rightly so because Polanski filmed her in such a way that drenched her in an even deeper aura of mystery. Olin is good too, she is very convincing in a somewhat shallow role as an out-and-out money-grubbing chic French tramp who bites (literally). There are certainly loads of questions left unanswered in the movie, but I think this is the intention of the director who wants you the viewer to make out the story how you want to see it. If you like a movie that features a great cast (albeit not your usual "teen heart-throb" Hollywood stars) shot in an European countryside backdrop, and a theme about the "dark forces" that leaves you thinking a bit - then you're sure to enjoy watching this. This movie has good pace. There's always something happening around the corner for Depp, and then there's always the question of "Who exactly is that *girl*?" I loved this whole movie and would recommend it to the right person."
An effective mystery; less so as demonic thriller
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 10/08/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I saw Roman Polanski's "The Ninth Gate" -- a horror film often poorly compared to his earlier "Rosemary's Baby" -- on a Saturday night when it began at 10 p.m. It is a good flick for late night on a Saturday -- it's about an unscrupulous rare book dealer (Johnny Depp in an effective role) that makes a deal with a similarly unscrupulous collector (Mr. Overactor Frank Langella) to visit Europe and determine if Langella's first edition book is authentic.
Only catch is it's a first edition of a book written in the 1500s that portends a visit by the devil from those who read it. Depp takes the case (and a big check with a promise of more to come) and goes on a European travelall to check out the other two books in existence.
Strange things begin to happen, weird people start showing up (including a protective angel) and mayhem begins to break out. Depp's investigation leads to death, fire and some interesting discoveries about the books. Langella shows up for a final scene of devil worship where his overacting takes on a new dimension.
This is an interesting and fun movie, for the most part. The mystery story is very involving and the European travelogue, through Spain and France, is very interesting. The film has many suspenseful moments and Depp is unusually good in his role.
This is a poor man's "Rosemary's Baby", however, and it lacks both the fit and finish of Polanski's other venture into devil worship. Still, it is a pretty good late night horror effort, one you can return to a few times to figure out whether that protective angel is actually a member of the devil's brigade or not."
A Superb Film - Highly Underrated!
youngvelvet | Calgary, Canada | 07/31/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Ninth Gate is a great film and one of Roman Polanski's most underrated films. Twenty years from now people will give this film the respect it deserves and hail it to be the great film that it is. Fist of all The Ninth Gate is not an action film. It's a slow-paced psychological thriller very similar in tone and style to Polanski's earlier films Chinatown and Frantic. Johnny Depp and Frank Langella both give great performances. Darius Khondji's photography is amazing and it has an even more amazing score by Kilar. The majority of the film was shot on location and is like a guided tour through Europe.Ignore the negative reviews and comments from people who've been brainwashed and blinded by the current Hollywood fast-food style of film making with the intention of only appealing to the lowest common denominator. A review doesn't make a good film better or a bad film worse. A superb film. Rating 10 out of 10."