The Shadow Effect (2017) Review

Sci-fi thriller has plenty of good ideas but some issues weaken the potential.

The Shadow Effect is a 2017 action/thriller about man with dreams that seem to parallel reality, forcing him to question which is which.

There’s nothing new under the Sun of course, and in movies even more so as plots and characters are retread over and over in different shades of black and white so it’s almost unfair to criticize a film for doing so, even when it does that and combines a few other bits along the way.

With The Shadow Effect, a name that itself draws a bit of comparison to a failed Jason Bourne reboot, much will look familiar for fans of the action/spy genre, even if the movie has a few good ideas. Limited by its fairly small budget, it works hard to convince otherwise, though it’s not so much the effects and story that raise issues but rather a curious tone that keeps the production a little off balance.

A young man named Gabriel Howarth (Cam Gigandet) suffers from seizure-inducing dreams that strike while he’s awake or asleep, causing him and his wife Brinn (Brit Shaw) some serious stress. These dreams all involve him killing others and has him seeing a psychiatrist and leader in waking dreams research named Dr. Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) for help. When Gabe begins to see a pattern though in the faces he sees in these visions to real people being murdered–some of them high profile figures–he begins to suspect what’s happening isn’t just dreams but something far more sinister.

Directed by brothers Obin Olson and Amariah Olson (and written by brothers Chad Law and Evan Law), The Shadow Effect is a mixed bag of clever concepts and misdirection with uninspired direction and lackluster acting, the combination of which leaves the film both an engaging and frustrating experience. The best parts are the story and a few well-executed moments that tap into some standard tropes, homaging and practically robbing from films like The Source Code and A Clockwork Orange (and even a little from an obscure Peter O’Toole film called Creator), but nonetheless work together in surprisingly compelling ways as the story keeps things a bit of a mystery for much of the runtime. While there can be no doubt the filmmakers expected comparisons, they at least do it with some flare and total commitment.

The Shadow Effect
The Shadow Effect, 2017 © DV3 Productions

Throwing everything in the mix, the Olsen brothers do better with the action than the dialogue, of which there is probably too much given that few of the dialogue-heavy scenes do much more but offer exposition. Meyers, who hams it up with silver streaks in his hair and plenty of bravado, telegraphs his part from his first appearance, not to mention a name that pays tribute his costar, Michael Biehn, who shows up as a nasty sheriff, chews up what he can, the two firmly cementing the show into solid B-movie status. Gigandet does what he can, and as an action star, holds his own though poor Shaw is a bit wasted as the love interest.

The Shadow Effect is an ambitious film and comes to play with plenty of toys but there’s a lack of momentum that keep it mostly flat, never earning the tension or wonder the premise seems to promise. Worth a look for enthusiasts, it has some strong moments but little to make it lasting.

The Shadow Effect (2017) Review

Movie description: The Shadow Effect is a 2017 action/thriller about man with dreams that seem to parallel reality forcing to question which is which.

Director(s): Obin Olson, Amariah Olson

Actor(s): Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Michael Biehn, Cam Gigandet

Genre: Sci-fi, Action

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