M. Night got his groove back . . . perhaps out of necessity. Like Hitch teaching Kevin James to dance (enjoy), Hollywood appears to have slapped some sense into director M. Night Shyamalan and forced him back into his proper lane: low-budget psycho dramas, with a dash of fun. And for the second straight time — Shyamalan most recently drove us to Grandma’s House in “The Visit” — the audience will enjoy the ride.
James McAvoy plays Kevin Crumb, a Philadelphia man ‘split’ among 23 distinct personalities, three of whom kidnap a group of teenage girls as a gift for a potential 24th personality known only as the Beast. “Plays,” however, doesn’t give McAvoy his due; he emotes each personality so well that you not only believe that each exists, you know whether you are in the presence of 9-year-old Hedwig, proper Patricia, or flamboyant fashion designer Barry by simply looking at McAvoy’s face, which can change even when the camera or costumes don’t. McAvoy owns the movie, with the help of Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays one of the captured teens with her own haunted life, which unfolds in a series of pertinent flashbacks.
Of course, Split is not perfect, it loses a star each for the requisite stupid moves (or missed opportunities) by its victims and its OK third act, and it might lose another if watched again at home without a willing audience — but that’s the point, Split works as a fun night out at the B-movies, especially when enjoyed with an opening weekend crowd looking for fun, scares, and more of Shyamalan’s previous Philly dramas, the Sixth Sense and (particularly) Unbreakable.
Worth 5 of my 7 sentences.