The Box [Celluloid Hero]
The Box (2009)
All the trailers for this movie laid out an excellent premise: Push a button, get a million dollars, but someone, somewhere will die. It's a great idea, a great conversation starter, a great philosophical debate. However, this movie basically turns into an overly-long episode of The Twilight Zone.
It's a "game" most people have played variations of: if you could only save one family member who would it be, would you rather die by burning or drowning, what crime would you commit if you knew you'd get away with it, etc. The first act sets up nicely: the family is having money issues, the mysterious stranger appears with an offer too good to be true, and the ethical debate kicks in.
The rest of the movie spirals down into this strange supernaturally-influenced attempt at judging humanity. Cameron Diaz and James Marsden were both weak points, from their acting to their accents. I never had any concern for either character, I didn't feel any emotional connection between them or to the audience. The movie took place in Virginia, but both speak with accents I've never heard from a real Virginian. Frank Langella walks a thin line between wonderfully ominous madman and cranky jerk, and his character is never fully explained. Normally with a crazy villain it's good to have a murky background, but in this case I just felt unfulfilled.
The biggest problem with The Box was the length. There actually was a Twilight Zone episode based on the short story on which The Box is also based, and only ran about half an hour. The Box runs just short of two hours, and definitely could've left a lot on the cutting room floor. Certain scenes should've been edited down, others just removed entirely.
For the record, if you offered me a million dollars to push a button and kill someone, the button would be pushed before you could blink. If I could get two million for pushing it twice, I would.