Movie Review: “Perception”

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“Perception” is a supernatural mystery/thriller that plays it too safe for its own good. Mild-mannered, slow of foot and a picture that keeps the stakes low even as its trying to raise them, it all but invites brainstormed suggestions of “better places to take this story.”

Wes Ramsey of TV’s “General Hospital” plays a go-getter at a development company anxious to knock down an office/business strip where a palm reader resides.

When a silent little boy stows away in his SUV on one of his visits to the site, he meets that palm reader, the kid’s mother. Nina (Meera Rohit Kumbhani of the indie delight, “Dave Made a Maze”) invites him in.

“Let me give you a reading. On the house.”

Daniel is “impulsive,” she says. “Alone. No family.”

Her eyes open wider the longer she touches his hands (She’s not actually “reading” them).

“You have a spirit following you…You’ve suffered a great loss. She, you…keep her very close. Your wife!”

Daniel becomes agitated at the idea of getting this woman with “the gift” to put him in touch with his late love. Nina is reluctant. She explains the rules, that “Maggie” (Caitlin Mehner of “The Best of Enemies” and TV’s “Proven Innocent”) is “in charge.” She shows Daniel the memories she wants him to see, and “not all memories are pleasant.”

Meanwhile, silent Hugo is struggling at school, acting out and obsessively drawing Daniel’s SUV, car accidents and the like. Nina’s mother (Vee Kumari) also has “the gift.” And she keeps saying “That’s NOT Hugo!”

Nina finds herself on ethical quicksand, and Daniel’s obsession with making contact grows. And soon co-writer/director Ilana Rein’s movie is drifting from sexy flashbacks to how Daniel and Maggie met, to PG-13 love scenes from those days.

It’s when Nina loses control of her body to Maggie that the sex scenes, in the present, turn R-rated, and problematic.

Either Nina’s allowed prostitution to creep into her “healing,” or she’s really into the guy with the Paul Walker stubble, hair and jawline.

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The menacing “spirit” of Maggie isn’t handled in any way that could generate frights, and the mundane unraveling of a development project is daytime TV-dull.

Kumbhani is an exotic, sympathetic presence but does little to make this character interesting or compellingly conflicted. Maybe turning her into more of a hustler i the fashion of Whoopie Goldberg in “Ghost” would have helped.

Ramsey gives it the old college try, but he doesn’t generate alarm, sympathy or fear as we watch him spiral through his own lapses and towards the nervous breakdown that precedes the “big reveal” that we’ve seen coming for an hour.

It’s a flat performance in a film that can ill afford one from its leading man, even if he does look a lot like Paul Walker.

1half-star

MPAA rating: unrated, violence, sexual situations

Cast: Wes Ramsey, Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Caitlin Mehner

Credits: Directed by Ilana Rein, script by Ilana Rein, Brian Smith. A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:42

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