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The Gift Reviews

A restrained, adult thriller from one-time wunderkinder Sam Raimi, whose rock 'em/shock 'em EVIL DEAD pictures once raised the bar on gross-out horror movies, and screenwriters Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson (ONE FALSE MOVE). Small-town widow Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett) is raising three boys in sleepy, insular Brixton, Ga., supplementing her survivor's benefits by utilizing the gift she inherited from her beloved grandma. Annie has "the sight" — she can peer into people's futures, though frankly, she's as much of a good listener and sensible advisor as a psychic card reader (Thornton reportedly based the character loosely on his own mother). Her clients include battered wife Valerie Barksdale (Hilary Swank) and high-strung mechanic Buddy Cole (Giovanni Ribisi), who's clearly damaged by ugly childhood experiences he can't face. In addition to worrying about their problems, Annie's got some on the home front: Valerie's volatile husband, Donnie (Keanu Reeves), is threatening Annie's family, and her oldest son, Mike (Lynnsee Provence), still dealing with his father's death, is in trouble at school. Called in to meet with Principal Wayne Collins (Greg Kinnear), Annie has a disturbing vision of his fiancée, flirtatious rich girl Jessica King (Katie Holmes): Annie sees her standing in a pool of water, her legs putrid and weed-tangled. Annie keeps her council, but when her distraught father asks for help after Jessica vanishes, Annie has another vision that reveals her whereabouts. Something about what she's seen doesn't quite fit, though, and Annie's further investigations uncover secrets even she knew nothing about. Though the last half hour slips into genre clichés, Blanchett's quietly radiant performance anchors even the most outrageous plot developments, and she's well-supported on all sides — as a brutal redneck with a sweet Southern-boy façade, Reeves is nothing less than a revelation. And while the film overall is more concerned with mounting menace than edge-of-your-seat shocks, it delivers a couple of stunners.