At this point in his career, one has to wonder why you’d hire Nicolas Cage in a direct-to-video role and not allow him the opportunity to showcase his zany brand of acting a couple of times. In effect, he’s at his best in these sorts of things when he’s given the opportunity to have a freak out every now and then—that’s what his fans are watching for, really. Having him be mostly subdued takes away from the appeal, especially when you’re dealing with schlock. And make no mistake, Looking Glass is schlock.
It’s set almost exclusively at a motel that Ray (Cage) and his wife, Maggie (Robin Tunney), have recently purchased. They lost a child and decided to make a fresh start in the middle of nowhere. After a lengthy period of doing repairs, meeting the locals, and getting things ready, the motel is opened and customers start appearing. Some time after that, weird things happen. A dead pig is found in the pool. Everyone requests Room 10, for some reason. And Ray finds a secret tunnel leading behind a trick mirror in one of the rooms that can be used to spy on people.
What does all this mean? There was a dead girl here a couple of months ago. And she died a day after Ray visited the motel for the first time. Coincidence? Who cares? The movie has a bunch of red herrings and weirdness, most of which adds up to nothing and doesn’t even build suspense or intrigue, or creep us out. It’s a whole lot of white noise that the movie doesn’t know what to do with.
This type of project needs someone who can use visuals to set the mood and tell a lot of the story, and director Tim Hunter isn’t that person—at least, not here. You need someone like a David Lynch to make this sort of material not feel tedious and inconsequential—or a better screenplay. By the time we find out what’s really going on, we’ve lost interest. The movie isn’t at all engaging beyond general curiosity, and that’s not enough to hold our attention.
That’s why these sorts of things often try to overdo it on the weirdness or hire Nic Cage to go over the top with his acting in order to at least give us something to watch. Looking Glass wants to be more like a drama than a thriller, and it can’t pull it off. These characters have only a couple of defining characteristics, and they can’t make up for the film lacking the dynamic visuals, insanity, or mystery that it needs in order to be effective.
Looking Glass is a boring movie whose mystery isn’t compelling, characters aren’t interesting, and visuals and weirdness aren’t enough to compensate for those deficiencies. It takes a long time to get going, once it gets going it doesn’t know what to do with itself, and it ends on a lackluster whimper that makes you wish you skipped the whole experience.
Conclusion: Looking Glass might have looked good on paper, but in practice it’s a poor excuse for a thriller.
Recommendation: Only people who want to watch every Nicolas Cage movie (for whatever reason) should watch Looking Glass.