Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Written by:Ehren Kruger
Starring: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox, Jane Alexander, David Dorfman
Released: November 14, 2002
Grade: B+

The Ring is the film of the hour with impressive box-office numbers being posted in the United States.  Its showing no signs of stopping and has made over $15m for three consecutive weekends.  The success has an added flavour for those down under with Australian actress Naomi Watts and New Zealand actor Martin Henderson sparkling in their leading roles.

There’s nothing new about The Ring because it’s already been a smash hit.  How so you ask?  Based on the novel by Koji Suzuki, a Japanese version was made back in 1998 (under the title Ringu) and was one of the highest grossing Japanese films of all time.  In fact, two Japanese sequels have already been made.  Dreamworks Pictures saw the opportunity to make an English version which is that I’m hear to review.

No time is wasted getting to the punch.  Instead of the traditional opening titles, we begin with an attention-grabbing incident.  A girl is sitting on her bed talking to a friend.  She tells about a tape she watched the weekend before with some friends.  On the tape were some bizarre images and after finishing, the phone rang and delivered a message - “you will die in seven days”.  Her fate is sealed when the premonition comes true a few minutes later.

Journalist Rachel Keller (Watts) knew the family and has been asked to investigate.  She tracks down the tape, sees it for herself and is given the same warning.  With the help of friend Noah (Henderson), they begin a search to track the tape’s origin and the significance of its images.  In the back of their minds is a burning thought - if they can’t solve this puzzle in seven days they too will face a horrible demise...

The Ring isn’t an edge-of-your-seat thriller nor will it have you shrieking with fear.  But this isn’t its design.  Like The Sixth Sense (which was made after Ringu), it keeps you absorbed by creating unanswered questions and then taking time to provide the answers.  There’s some neat little plot turns but given the build up and hype, I was slightly underwhelmed by the key twist revealed at the end.

Director Gore Verbinski (The Mexican, Mouse Hunt) gets much help from his crew.  The editing from Craig Wood is sharp and the music score from Hans Zimmer brilliantly echoes in the background.  It’s dark and there’s few bright colours - all setting the scene for a morbid tale.

Naomi Watts sure is a rising star with this following her award winning turn in Mulholland Drive.  Like another Australian star, Cate Blanchett, she can transform herself for each new role.  Martin Henderson was seen in Australia only a few years ago in the short-lived TV series, Big Sky.  Now, he’s a feature character in an U.S. smash hit.  For both, it seems, the success will only continue.

Lured by the moola, I expect a sequel will follow.   In the meantime, I might check out Ringu - word on the street is that it’s much better and scarier than its American equivalent.