The stars are not what we think, there’s a “world behind the world,” and magic is real: Right from its opening voiceover, this treacly snow-flecked romance makes pushy demands on your patience. The easier-to-buy bits include floppy-haired Colin Farrell as a 1916 thief and scamp; Russell Crowe as a humorless crime boss; and Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay playing a New Yorker suffering from consumption. Sounds like the usual gush, even if Farrell does a lot of his acting with a white horse called Horse.
But since this marks the directorial debut of Hollywood hack Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind), there’s a heavy foot applied to the era-skipping leaps made by source novelist Mark Helprin. Just as you’re wrapping your head around the 2014 version of Farrell, a reincarnated street artist connecting with single mom and food journo Jennifer Connelly, there’s a whole raft of sentimental complications that spoil the sobriety. Could he be her “miracle”? That’s the kind of New Agey dialogue to expect—and an A-lister’s cameo as Lucifer is too ridiculous to ruin.
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