The only thing saving "Dead Ringers" from mediocrity is its director, David Cronenberg. Here is a thriller that isn't necessarily ingenious, influential, or emotionally unforgettable; yet it's thoroughly engaging, well-acted, and visually interesting. Cronenberg has a fascination of many things, some disturbing, some acceptable to a good part of society (see his more "modern" pictures). Yet, he has remained intelligent throughout his entire career, whether his films are good or not (by my standards and opinions).
This film is both disturbing and thought-provoking. I liked it because Cronenberg was daring, took directions that many other filmmakers would have not, and creates a pretty fascinating film out of it all. It certainly isn't perfect, or even, or particularly drenched in payoff, but I found it an entertaining, and so will you, as long as you can suspend your disbelief and go with what the filmmaker has going here. Cronenberg almost effortlessly injects his style into the material, and takes it to new heights. It wasn't pleasant, but it wasn't meant to be. If I'm meant to critique films based on how much I enjoyed them as well as how good they are, for what they are; then "Dead Ringers" gets all that it deserves.
The subject matter may be enough to send you packing - or running - out of the nearest place of viewing. The film opens with the Mantle Twins, Elliot and Beverly (both played by Jeremy Irons) talking about sex, and at a young age. They even go up to a girl and ask for sex, prompting her to get up and leave the situation. She then threatens to tell her father, the darned tattle-tale.
It would appear that the brothers had been fascinated with sex, the organs involved in it, and the human element within for their entire lives. Shortly after the opening sequence, we see them grown up, many years later; both successful gynecologists. If you didn't know, that's a term used to define those who study the female sexual reproductive organ. They are happy as their lives go on; Elliot is energetic and seduces many of his patients, eventually getting bored of them, thus sending them to Beverly for sex. Beverly is shy and uncertain; and when one very special, important patient (Genevieve Bujold) discovers that Elliot has performed the mention routine with her, she is furious and chooses to scorn Beverly, the poor bastard.
This leaves the more emotionally vulnerable of the twins to suffer from drug problems, anxiety, and deep depression. Love has hit Beverly with a poisonous dart; plaguing his intellectual mind forevermore. All of this happens in the film's second and third acts; leading up to a conclusion that is completely Cronenberg-esque in its delivery and in its style, but completely lacking in emotional resonance. I liked watching the film, and the story is well-told by the director, who specializes in stories like this one to begin with; but I cared more for the seduced, deceived women than I did any of the two twins. That isn't to say that they weren't good characters, I just think they need more focus and development. Some will disagree; but then again, it's better than disagreeing completely with me and my opinions on the film. Some of you might hate it, and then some of you, like me, might find it somewhat fascinating and intriguing. There's no masterpiece to be found here, but there seldom is with these kinds of films.
I really hope that this film finds a wider audience. It deserves one. While I certainly agree with SOME - and just "some" - of the criticism regarding it, there's enough hypnotic, stylistic substance to the film that allowed me to enjoy it for all its disturbing whimsy. It is divisive critically, yes, but there's something about it that makes it more than it probably should be. Cronenberg fans will not be disappointed, as they will instantly notice that director's trademarks (creepy body-horror dream sequences, sexual narrative themes). As for anyone else, go in with an open mind. There's little to regret through watching the film, since if you know this filmmaker well, you'll be able to endure "Dead Ringers". I've seen better and I've seen worse (out of Cronenberg). Why complain about a few bruises on a very, very overall satisfactory product?