Penelope Ann Miller and Tom Sizemore star in THE RELIC, directed by Peter Hyams for Paramount Pictures.

The Relic (1997, Peter Hyams)

Considering Peter Hyams’s career as a director began in the early seventies, it’s strange to see him reference Alien and the 1976 King Kong—these films being made after he got his start.

The Relic has the one big problem of Hyams’s career overall—he photographs his films himself and he usually uses this “realistic” palette. That palette is often murky and gray and Relic fits the pattern. It’s unfortunate, not just because it makes scenes sometimes hard to understand (as people move through a dark museum, bumping into strange objects), but also because it cuts down on the film’s sensationalism. And, at its heart, The Relic is a solid, unambitious b movie.

Hyams’s direction—lighting aside—is good. He has fantastic shots and a good pace.

But what’s so good about the film is the acting. Hyams gets this personable, charming performance from Tom Sizemore, which is both a lot of fun and very interesting to see Sizemore essay. It’s against type for him and he excels at it.

Penelope Ann Miller gets top billing and she’s superb. She gets to do a lot (including run from a CG monster) and does it all well. She and Sizemore are great together—but she’s great with everyone in the film, whether Linda Hunt and James Whitmore as her mentors or Chi Muoi Lo as her academic adversary.

Lo is hilariously slimy.

The third act has problems—especially the tepid ending—but The Relic’s an okay monster thriller with excellent performances.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed and photographed by Peter Hyams; screenplay by Amy Holden Jones, John Raffo, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, based on a novel by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child; edited by Steven Kemper; music by John Debney; production designer, Philip Harrison; produced by Gale Anne Hurd and Sam Mercer; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Penelope Ann Miller (Dr. Margo Green), Tom Sizemore (Lt. Vincent D’Agosta), Linda Hunt (Dr. Ann Cuthbert), James Whitmore (Dr. Albert Frock), Clayton Rohner (Det. Hollingsworth), Chi Muoi Lo (Dr. Greg Lee), Thomas Ryan (Tom Parkinson), Robert Lesser (Mayor Robert Owen), Diane Robin (The Mayor’s Wife) and Lewis Van Bergen (John Whitney).

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