The Relic

AUGUST 27, 2007


Back in 1997, I read an interview with Tom Sizemore (of whom I was a big fan from his work in Natural Born Killers, Heat, etc.), concerning his starring role in The Relic. He pointed out that it was his first starring role, but in a film people were seeing for the monster. “No one goes, ‘Hey let’s go see the new Tom Sizemore movie,” he was more or less quoted as saying. I showed it to my friend Mike, who was also a big fan of Sizemore, and we were like “We do!”

Well I didn’t go see it. And Tom got arrested on opening weekend for slapping his girlfriend around. But hey, still a big fan.

Ten years later I finally got around to seeing the film (though I did try to watch it at a hotel once, but I fell asleep before Sizemore even showed up). In a way I am almost glad I waited until I had a TV with a 10,000:1 contrast ratio to view it on. Since this is a Peter Hyams film, the levels of black and slightly less black that make up 90% of the imagery require a strong picture in order to see what the hell was going on. Had I seen the film in the best theater around at the time of the film’s theatrical release, that would not have been possible. Oh Hyams... you light hating bastard you.

It’s not the worst film I’ve ever seen, but it’s painfully generic. The Jurassic Park influences are annoying (and now, dated), and the effects are fucking terrible for the most part (especially when the monster runs around aflame during the film’s climax). I got the impression I could walk out for a half hour or so and know exactly what I missed, since the film works off of a template. 1:10 into the film – time for Sizemore to deliver some personal back story. 1:25 – time for the human character we dislike to get his just desserts. Etc.

There’s a scene early on that makes the film worth watching though. The monster kills a security guard off screen. Sizemore is investigating (via being a prick that is smarter than all the other cops), and Penelope Ann Miller walks in and sees the bloody mess. Her scream provided me the biggest laugh I’ve had in ages. Thank you, Ms. Miller. Part of the film’s problem is trying to make her into an interesting heroine. She isn’t, and having Sizemore sit the climax out while she runs around screaming (and delivering the lamest final line in a monster movie ever) certainly doesn’t help.

And why the hell is David Proval, a recognizable character actor who had already chalked up a number of good roles by the time this movie was released, play a vague security guard who appears for maybe two minutes during the 3rd act? His partner, as well as almost everyone else in the movie that wasn’t Sizemore, Miller, or Linda Hunt, is some no name, so what’s he doing stooping to their level?

Anyone ever play the game Shivers for the PC? It came out in the mid 90s. It was a Myst style adventure game where you are trapped inside a museum. I kept thinking about that game when I watched this movie. Good game.

Not a very good movie.

What say you?


  1. I love that I'm not the only one who notices Hyams lack of lighting. And I haven't seen this since the theater, but if I remember correctly they left out the most interesting character from the book, Agent Pendegrast. And the authors agreed as well since the books following this featured Pendegrast more than any of the other characters. But as a film, I remember thinking it was okay; it's been one I've always meant to go back and see one day.

  2. Generic movie, completely forgettable. May as well have been made for the SciFi channel in the early 2000s.

    GREAT BOOK though. Preston and Child have written a great series of books, all which read like movies, but would be very expensive to adapt properly, and they'd probably all turn out like Relic anyway. Can't recommend the books enough!

  3. I think I have the first book somewhere... now that i've seen the movie maybe I'll finally get around to reading it (I like to watch the movie first since I know that even if i like the movie a lot, the book will improve on it, that way i get enjoyment twice!)

  4. Tom Sizemore likes to punch the hookers. That's his bag. Other than that, his acting is kinda overrated. When I rented this movie on VHS soon after it was available. Then I forgot that it even existed until today, when I read your post.

  5. While I won't try to defend this film as great or anything, I always had a soft spot in my heart for it, and I would argue that it belongs in the upper half of the big monster movies.

  6. i read the book about ten years ago and loved it so much...but the movie? ack! hated it...they mixed two characters into one...changed the japanese character into a chinese... changed a male character into a female...and changed how the monster got killed...geez...

  7. Hi BC,

    Yeah, I didn't like this one either. Ech. Speaking of Penelope Ann Miller, I liked her best in Carlito's Way.


  8. I just watched this the other day, and while in a sense I sorta admire Hyams' confidence in his lack of lighting, I'm not convinced that this isn't just incompetence on his part. Anyway, there were assorted sequences where I could see a fucking thing, and it drove me nuts. This is generic fare that hasn't aged well at all. The only scene I liked was the one in the morgue with the acerbic doctor.

  9. I was about 15 when this came out. I had read the book (Still a big fan of the authors, by the way, check 'em out) and was excited for the movie. Then I read that they left out one of the most interesting characters of the book (FBI Special Agent Pendergast). I was like, "Hrmm. I guess I'll still see it." After all, at that point in my life I think the only film I knew that Peter Hyams directed was "Stay Tuned" and... well... a decomposing Eugene Levy being eaten by wolves? Jeffrey Jones and John Ritter swordfighting? Okay... I'll see it.

    So anyway, my mom had to buy my ticket since it was an R-rated movie, and while buying the ticket, she got this crazy notion in her head that she wanted to see it with me. I warned her against since I knew she hated scary movies, but again she insisted.

    So let's cut to the scene where Sizemore and Miller are in the sewer, in the waist-deep water, only source of light coming from a flashlight. No music. Just the soundtrack. Okay, cool. Pretty cool little tense scene. I glance over, and my mom is under her damn coat cowering.

    That was pretty much the only good memory I have of the movie. That and when the SWAT team gets it.

  10. I loved the book and hated that they cut out the most interesting character, who the authors have now written a whole series about.


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