The Return of M. Night Shyamalan… Just Kidding!: “Split” Movie Review (2 Stars)

McAvoy’s tour-de-force performance barely saves this absurd film.

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James McAvoy in “Split”

I must admit I was very excited at the prospect of M. Night Shyamalan returning to form! I remember in the early 2000’s when you first saw a trailer for his movies and everyone would get excited. He was a director and writer that was able to thrill you in such a unique way and turn the tables on his audience constantly.

Then that ability turned into a gimmick. His movies got so absurd and out of left field. The Lady in the Water? The Happening? The Last Airbender? After Earth? Gone were the days of the unique and creative writing/direction of The Sixth Sense. So you can imagine my excitement when reviews started to role out for his newest film “Split” and they were surprisingly positive!

What the hell are these reviewers talking about!!?

Granted, the movie starts out well with an intriguing premise of three girls being kidnapped by a man with multiple personalities. We are treated to many ingenious attempts of these girls trying to escape. Meanwhile, we are also treated to a sideline story of this man and his therapist (a brilliant Betty Buckley!)

All’s well in Split-ville until suddenly the movie is cruising along and things start to get weird (and that’s saying something in a movie with a main character who has multiple personalities.)  The movie starts to go off the rails in a big way. I can just imagine Shyamalan writing the script on his computer and being so proud of it and suddenly he realizes he has no clue where this story is going and starts to go further off track and further and further until (SPOILER) he suddenly ends up in one of his other movies.

The last half hour of the movie is so stupid and absurd, I wanted to kick myself for actually believing that Shyamalan could make another good movie! I won’t actually spoil anything here, but it’s so disappointing to see what could have been a great premise just get thrown onto celluloid without any real thought out conclusion.

Sure, the entire time you are trying to guess the ending. That was half the fun of a Shyamalan movie! Seeing when the twist clicks first for you! With “Split,” he is trying so hard to trick his audience that the result makes you wanna hurl things at the screen and ask for your money back rather than be thrilled.

There are two shining spots in this movie (and I’m giving it two stars for each of them.)

The first is James McAvoy’s tour-de-force performance as the main character. He expertly weaves his way through the creation of almost ten separate characters (all completely different) and the result is astounding. At one moment, in a therapy session with Buckley, he only slightly tilts his head in the opposite direction and the entire character changes in front of your eyes! It’s a masterclass in acting!

The other star goes to the “Cats”-diva herself, Betty Buckley. Why, oh why is Betty Buckley not in more films?! I found myself craving for the scenes between her and McAvoy and completely uninterested in the plight of the girls. She brought so much grace and strength to a character that could’ve easily been upstaged by McAvoy’s multiple characters.

In conclusion, see this movie if you care at all about brilliant acting. Be warned, you’ll probably die from laughter at the absurdity of the plot.

Awards Potential: Best Actor (but it’s being released in January, so let’s be real…)

⭐⭐

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