Margaret Matheson (Weaver) and her partner Tom Buckley (Murphy) are investigators into the paranormal, who have debunked every medium and spoon-bender they have found - even those who have passed muster in their university's psychic phenomena department. And Matheson has been doing it for 30 years, so is particularly cynical about the field. When Simon Silver (De Niro) resurfaces, after a long period out of the limelight, Buckley is desperately keen to take him down and expose Silver for the fraud he believes him to be. Matheson is a great deal less keen, telling her partner to back off Silver - the last time he was in town, someone tried to confront him, and promptly dropped dead of a heart-attack. Coincidence, or something which Matheson would rather deny existed? Buckley decided to go into operation anyway, but the first show he attends results in a slew of inexplicable events, and he's left to figure out whether Silver is the greatest fraud of them all, or the genuine article.
With its strenuous attempts at "balance," this is likely to end up satisfying no-one at all, well before the end where it ends up falling off the fence to one side. It doesn't help that there's a very good reason why Weaver is given second billing to Murphy, and the film basically falls apart when it kicks in, because Murphy doesn't have the dramatic testicles to hold the audience's attention the rest of the way. Not that he has to do much more than look increasingly concerned, as he gets mysterious phone-calls, birds drop dead around him, and anything electrical goes haywire - in the sparkily photogenic way only ever seen in genre cinema, naturally. It's all supremely unengaging when it's not complete bollocks, and once Weaver leaves the screen, she takes the last reason to watch with her. The twists at the end really don't hold up to scrutiny, and if there's something deep and meaningful the film is trying to say, it appears to be that it's okay to kill someone you love if you believe in life after death. Let me think about that and get back to you...