‘Serenity’ gets a bit too weird for most
“Serenity” was a pretty good mystery tale ... until it started getting weird.
Writer/Director Steven Knight (“Locke,” “Redemption”) thought this one up. The big question is “how?” And maybe even, “Why?”
I guess because Hollywood had success with strange films like “The Matrix” and “Inception,” there is hope that if you make it conceptually crazy enough and/or visually fascinating enough, it will sell.
Well, it didn’t.
Matthew McConaughey (“Sahara,” “Mud,” “The Lincoln Lawyer”) tried his best as Baker Dill, an Iraq War veteran who appears to be strangely obsessed with a large fish. Original enough?
His ex-wife appears from nowhere to try to convince him to kill the husband she has married. Money is involved, but mainly the murder is due to domestic violence toward her and possibly her son from her marriage to Dill.
As the plotting Karen Zariakas, Anne Hathaway (“The Princess Diaries,” “Les Miserables,” “The Devil Wears Prada”) is devious, yet sympathetic, while her ex-husband stands strong against the idea.
After meeting Frank Zariakas, played well by Jason Clarke (“Lawless,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Great Gatsby”) Dill may be changing his mind (and values) toward committing a brutal crime.
This is all a nice (if not all that original) plot line, but then it starts getting very strange, involving the son, who apparently is bit of a geek and constantly on his computer.
A couple of nice second-tier performances are Djimon Hounsou (“Blood Diamond,” “Gladiator,” “Biker Boyz”) as Duke, the Sancho Panza deck hand on Dill’s tourist fishing boat (think Bogart in “To Have and Have Not”) and Diane Lane (“Unfaithful,” “Under the Tuscan Sun,” “Untraceable”) as the sexy Constance, a willing patron for Dill’s illogical exploits. Lane’s character gives the visual excuse for torrid (although short) bedroom scenes, a reason for many McConaughey fans to come and watch him.
A third second-tier player is Jeremy Strong (“Masters of Sex,” “Selma,” “Molly’s Game”) as Reid Miller, a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma - well, you get the idea. His appearance and manner stand out because it throws off everything you have seen up until that time, but also because Strong is perfect for the part.
For a seemingly insignificant player to become so interesting is a credit to the writing, and also to the actor.
“Serenity” is a movie that will appeal to very few (even the McConaughey voyeurs) and has nothing much to show for the effort except nice film work, a clever, but confusing plot and good performances by several players.
The unusual ending may not surprise most, and causes the movie to end with a fizzle, not a bang.
Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.