I Inside, The

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 03/08/05 14:19:30

"A low rent plot twister... call it Jacob's Stepladder."
3 stars (Just Average)

Combine the weird-out confuse-o-rama of “Jacob’s Ladder” or “Brain Dead” with the time-hopping madness of “The Butterfly Effect” or “The Jacket,” and you’ve got “The I Inside,” a modest thriller that tries to be a lot more than it is, yet still comes off decently enough to entertain.

Not that you’d notice it from the movie’s pedigree. The script comes from Timothy Scott Bogart, who previously wrote the dopey “Extreme Ops,” and Michael Cooney, who wrote and directed the dopier “Jack Frost” direct-to-video horror series (you know, the one about the killer snowman). Meanwhile, the director, Roland Suso Richter, is a German who’s never worked in English before. And the thing stars Ryan Phillippe, ’nuff said.

But wait! Cooney also penned the nifty (if problematic) “Identity,” which made its plot holes almost as fun as its plot twists. “The I Inside” has that same feeling. It wants desperately to be one of those Mobius strip movies, the kind that keep looping around and around, the viewer trapped in an endless puzzle. Like “Identity,” it’s a puzzle that’s a lot of fun to watch. But like “Identity,” it’s also missing enough logic to make it really crackle; both films put too much effort into the mystery and not enough into the solution.

Phillippe stars as Simon Cable, a twentysomething yuppie who jolts awake one night in a hospital room and gets told by his doctor (Stephen Rea) that it’s 2002 - a full two years of Simon’s memory is missing. It turns out he’s married to a nasty ice queen (Piper Perabo), and he may have been the victim of a murder attempt, and, worst of all, he was in the hospital two years earlier, following the death of his brother. But what to make of the mystery woman (Sarah Polley) who pops into his room, only to disappear without a trace?

When that’s not enough mystery for the script, Simon then wakes up in another hospital room, talking to another doctor (Peter Egan), and learning that it’s actually the year 2000, and his brother just died. And so the movie goes, back and forth in time, with poor Simon stuck trying to figure out what’s real, what’s a dream, etc., etc. And to top it all off, there’s the issue of his brother’s death, which Simon might get to solve if he keeps jumping around long enough.

It doesn’t entirely work, especially near the end, when the solutions we get aren’t satisfying enough (not to mention a senseless finale that’s added on for mere thrill value, logic sold separately). And yet there’s still plenty of fun to be had here. The cast makes it all enjoyable, hamming it up and finding the value of a silly thriller; most impressive is Phillippe, who’s far more “Way of the Gun” cool than he is “Cruel Intentions” or “Antitrust” lame. I wouldn’t have pegged him as the right guy for such a role, but he delivers a nice panicky performance that fits just right.

Along the way, the script keeps tossing us satisfying curveballs (oh, don’t bother trying to make sense of it; just enjoy the twists for twists’ sake), and Richter gets the movie plowing ahead at a good clip. This is a film that moves quickly enough that we don’t mind the contrivances until the ride’s over. Sure, there’s plenty to gripe about when the credits roll, but until then, the story’s agreeable enough to provide a solid evening’s entertainment. And as low budget B thrillers go, “The I Inside” certainly does its job: it’s a nice, low expectations thriller that works.

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