Intriguingly, “Jinn” makes a plea for understanding and cooperation between Muslims, Jews and Christians. Disappointingly, writer-director Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad does all too good a job burying that message within a blustering supernatural thriller.
Not one, but two prologues introduce the ancient struggle between the three varieties of earthly creatures, according to Arabic myth: humans, angels and jinn. (The latter are better-known to Westerners as genies, or to 1960s sitcom watchers as Jeannie.) The nastiest of the jinn are the satanic Shayateen, who are planning bad things for Shawn Walker (Dominic Rains), a Michigan auto designer whose cars just may be fast enough to race with the devils.
Shawn was adopted by the Walkers after something horrific happened to his parents. The Shayateen know who he really is, and are coming for him and his wife, Jasmine (Serinda Swan). The villains fear she might bear the next generation of Shayateen-peeving warriors.
After some bad omens and the arrival of a videotaped warning from his dead father, Shawn is brought up to speed by Father Westhoff (William Atherton) and his ally, Gabriel (Ray Park). The latter is no angel, but he is a supernatural force for good. He’s the one who wears the insignia shown at the movie’s opening, which combines the Islamic crescent, the Christian cross and the Jewish star.
After Jasmine vanishes, Shawn faces a series of battles, which sometimes flash back or scene-hop into other clashes. These switches are probably supposed to be mystically disorienting, but the principal effect is to undermine the momentum of a movie that didn’t have that much oomph to begin with. While the final credits tease a “Jinn” sequel, the movie has barely enough story for its first installment.
The film might have worked better as the pseudo-scholarly thriller it occasionally attempts to be. But Ahmad apparently doubts the commercial appeal of that approach, so he regularly interjects CGI smoke-and-ember monsters and martial-arts action, scored to overwrought thumps and shrieks. This stuff is competent but routine. Give “Jinn” credit for forgoing the usual vampires, zombies and werewolves, but it just inserts a lesser-known bogeyman into a shopworn formula.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.
PG-13. At area theaters. Contains some intense scenes of violence and terror. In English and Arabic with subtitles. 97 minutes.