'The Shadow Effect' Spoils A Cool Premise With Its Stock Shoot-'Em-Up Approach

By James Jay Edwards
Released: May 2, 2017
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A young man's life is turned upside down when his violent dreams begin to blend with reality.

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Film Review
It's said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, the Jason Bourne movies should really be flattered by The Shadow Effect.

The Shadow Effect is about a young man named Gabriel Howarth (The Magnificent Seven's Cam Gigandet) who suffers from very violent, very real-seeming dreams. When he notices that his dreams seem to coincide with political assassinations that he sees on the news, he seeks help from psychiatrist Dr. Reese (Stonewall's Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who happens to be an expert on the field of waking dreams. Gabriel starts to piece together the fact that his dreams are much more than just dreams, and Dr. Reese knows more about the situations that he's letting on. With the help of his wife, Brinn (Brit Shaw from Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension), Gabriel struggles to figure out what's going on before his dreams catch up with him.

The Shadow Effect, photo courtesy Momentum Pictures 2017.

The minds behind The Shadow Effect are two pairs of brothers; it was written by Chad and Evan Law, and it was directed by Obin and Amariah Olson. The Law Brothers have written titles such as 6 Bullets and Drive Hard, while the Olson's resume includes films with names like Unknown Caller and Operator. From the previous work of the filmmakers, you can pretty much get an accurate idea of what you're going to see in The Shadow Effect.

Ok, so The Shadow Effect isn't a complete Bourne ripoff. It hangs out in the same wheelhouse - a confused badass who may or may not be a political pawn - but the character motivations are different. There's also a little more mystery in The Shadow Effect, but that's not necessarily a good thing; the mystery comes more from things painting themselves into a corner than from the (not so) cleverly plotted storyline. Oh, and Gabriel Howarth is no Jason Bourne. That's another difference. He's not nearly as much fun to watch.

The Shadow Effect, photo courtesy Momentum Pictures 2017.

There are some cool ideas in The Shadow Effect, ones that play to the Olson's strengths as directors and the Law's strengths as writers. The assassination scenes are generally the best scenes in the film, utilizing non-generic locales and venues like boats and train stations to keep things moving in an interesting direction. After a while, though, it turns into a standard shoot-'em-up, and that's where it goes south fast. And neither Cam Gigandet nor Jonathan Rhys Meyers are charismatic enough to keep things exciting once it ventures into stock action film territory.

In the end, the intriguing concept and smattering of interesting set pieces in The Shadow Effect would be better suited for short form television, where there isn't enough time for the handful of original aspects to become banal. The Shadow Effect would make one hell of an episode of "The X-Files."
In The Shadow Effect, the thing that triggers Gabriel's seizures and turns him into a dreaming assassin is a song. A terrible, not good, extremely bad, incredibly cheesy song. To nobody's surprise, it's uncredited (I wouldn't want to take the blame for it, either), but it sounds like a pseudo power-ballad somewhere between Creed and Nickelback with thickly accented vocals which make the lyrics all but indecipherable. So, it's this horrible song that sets him off and causes him to go crazy and want to kill people. And that's all by design, because (MINOR SPOILER ALERT) the scientists force him to listen to it A Clockwork Orange-style at the tail end of the film, and they know exactly what it does to him. Maybe it's supposed to be bad, subliminally driving him and the audience crazy (hearing it over and over made me want to punch things, too). Or maybe it's just a really bad song. Either way, the song that is played throughout The Shadow Effect is just awful.

The Shadow Effect, photo courtesy Momentum Pictures 2017.

Action, Thriller
Release Date
May 2, 2017
Production Designer
Casting Director
Music Score