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USA 2001
Directed by
Iain Softley
120 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars


The most mysterious aspect of Iain Softley’s mystery drama is how its substantial cast managed to say their lines with conviction but I suppose that what’s professional actors get paid for. Which leads on to the second mystery – how much time and money were spent on this malarkey.

Kevin Spacey plays Prot who is picked up by police and claims to be a visitor from K-PAX, a planet in a solar system 1000 years away. He is sent to the Psychiatric Institute of Manhattan (which of course is full of rent-a-looney inmates). There he comes under the care of Dr. Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges) who is unsettled by how convincing Prot is, to the point whereby he wonders if what he claims is true.

In a script that is worthy of M. Night Shyalaman, writer Charles Leavitt, aided by Spacey’s controlled performance and Edward Shearmur’s other-worlddy score get us to experience Dr Powell’s doubt as he searches for a way into Prot’s seamlessly defended world.

Of course we know that there is going to be a rational explanation for Prot’s claims and that these are simply stratagems to mislead us. This is done in many scenes but most egregiously in one in which Prot befuddles a group of astronomers (Dr Powell just happens to have an astronomer buddy) by drawing a scientifically accurate representation of K-PAX’s orbit, which he claims every K-PAXian knows, albeit with no explanation as to why.

Around about the midway mark Powell decides to “regress” Prot under hypnotism and the narrative begins to take on a thriller structure.  Working against time Powell pieces together various clues gleaned from the hypnotized Prot to reveal his true identity and the gruesome events that resulted in his psychosis.

The trouble the film has however is that as director Softley has packaged the story very much in the manner of a mainstream Hollywood adult drama, rather than a true sci-fi yarn such as The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976) he has to sympathetically reconcile Prot’s unmasking with all the effort expended on getting us to find credible the idea that he really was an extra terrestrial. The result is a hollow coda to the main story..

Despite being technically well-made and Spacey and Bridges giving solid performances in the lead roles, K-PAX is nonsense from beginning to end. 




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