It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"The Shadow" opens in Tibet, where a decadent villain with long purple fingernails lounges in an opium den where the execution of his enemies - and friends - hardly raises an eyebrow. This is Ying Ko, the first of three names the Shadow will use, and he is a worthless piece of work until he is taken in hand by an ancient wise man who forces him to reform. Thus does Ying Ko become Lamont Cranston, better known as The Shadow. And thus does he move from Tibet to "that most wretched lair of villainy we know as . . . New York City." If you grew up on radio serials and pulp magazines, this is a familiar world. But "The Shadow" hasn't been heard on radio in 40 years, the pulps have crumbled to dust, and still the tacky romanticism of The Shadow retains its power: Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? A fiendish laugh, and then: The Shadow knows.
"The Shadow" is the kind of movie that plays better, the more baggage you bring to it. If you respond to film noir, if you like dark streets and women with scarlet lips and big fast cars with running boards, the look of this movie will work some kind of magic.
The story itself may not be so mesmerizing, but who really cares? Style and tone are everything with a movie like this, which wants to bring to life a dark secret place in the lurid pulp imagination.
The movie stars Alec Baldwin as Lamont Cranston, aka the Shadow, and he is a good choice for the role. Sleekly handsome, with a glint in his dark eyes, he remains utterly solemn while delivering lines like, "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit" and "Inside you beats a heart of darkness." He wears a cape and a wide-brimmed hat, and stalks the night streets, fighting crime. The sound of his voice seems to echo from inside a large, damp room, and is a counterpoint for Jerry Goldsmith's score, made out of sad brass sounds and tremulous strings.