The Wicker Man (PG-13)
Drama 106 September 1, 2006
Gender-combat provocateur Neil LaBute remakes the cult 1973 British film, and it's something of a muddy, methodical slog, and as overwritten as you'd expect, with plenty of the-past-was-no-accident ploys and character traits (a bee allergy, for instance) that -- surprise! -- emerge as plot functions. Faithful to his own prejudices, LaBute has reinvented the generalized Celtic pagans of Anthony Shaffer's original screenplay as a mother-goddess-worshipping matriarchy whose main product is honey and whose men are all mysteriously mute and subservient. Now, the mainland officer (Nicolas Cage), haunted by a highway wreck and in search of a missing girl, has only the quasi-Amish colony's irrationally antiquated ways to infuriate him. Given its origins, the film is curiously sexless -- curious, that is, until you realize how LaBute is shaping the material, unleashing his particular brand of savage-sympathetic woman hating. The film boils down to Cage's hangdog investigator barking at implacable and gorgeously forbidding women and, eventually, punching the shit out of several, as the story's timer ticks down to a murderous fertility ritual. This wasn't a horror film the first time around, and LaBute makes sorry feints at effective creepiness, letting the story roam in circles just like Cage.