Serenity (2019)
Serenity (2019)

Genre: Mystery and Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 46 min.

Release Date: January 25th, 2017 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Steven Knight Actors: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane, Djimon Hounsou, Jason Clarke, Jeremy Strong, Rafael Sayegh

 


 

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ashed-up fisherman Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) spends his days drinking too much rum, arguing with the clients who charter his boat, and verbally alienating his first mate, Duke (Djimon Hounsou). His latest obsession with catching a monster tuna, which has eluded his hook numerous times, fills his dampened heart with extra vitriol and aggression after each failed attempt. When his ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway) suddenly appears on Plymouth Island with a desperate proposition to help end her anguish at the hands of abusive husband Frank (Jason Clarke), Dill’s life begins to unravel further – all while he’s haunted by eerie dreams of his estranged son, Patrick (Rafael Sayegh).

“Serenity” begins like a killer shark movie, featuring drunk, dozing anglers, a stern captain who can sense the presence of his lifelong nemesis, and nervous glances and panicky reactions to intermittent yanks on a reel. But it quickly turns into a much more lackluster affair, with the shark being a tuna (a sizable one, at least), sporting the name “Justice” instead of Moby Dick or Jaws. And the protagonist isn’t much of a hero – or even much of a troller. Instead, Dill is a loser who makes bad business decisions, can’t pay his employees, antagonizes his friends, and takes money from the local woman (Diane Lane) who values his physical affections. Dill even swigs liquor from a mug that reads “World’s Greatest Dad,” which is an obviously ironic prop.

The story proper gets a little more interesting with the arrival of Karen, but the actual scene that introduces her is one of the worst ever shot. The camera circles around her as if a Transformer in a Michael Bay extravaganza, and she’s given lines of dialogue that sound ludicrously trite. “Back in the real world, they have this thing called Facebook,” she comments, just before she springs the idea of murdering her husband. And the pitiful camera gimmicks continue, feeling terribly misplaced, even though they eventually concede a genuine purpose.

Dill brandishes an almost supernatural connection to his son, while a skinny, bespectacled man  (Jeremy Strong) rushes around trying to speak with Baker, always missing him by a few seconds. These are the first clues that not everything is as it seems, ultimately leading to a significant revelation that drastically alters everything that came before it. But the surface-level relationship drama, the notes on temptation and torment, and the potential for a circuitous murder/mystery could have been enough, were they handled by a more competent writer/director. Here, Steven Knight’s desire to experiment with traditional plots results in unpredictable twists – but conspicuously absent entertainment value.

“The rules have changed.” Even the ostensible vigilantism necessary to correct a draining domestic abuse scenario is tossed aside, not for shocks but for unguessable disclosures. In many ways, “Serenity’s” basic premise as a thriller barely works, as the shoddy pacing, editing, and character development manage to rob any potential for suspense. The brief concept of an existence without consequences might have been sufficient to turn things around, but it too is a mere passing afterthought. Perhaps most disappointing of all, however, is that despite how strange and unusual “Serenity” becomes toward its conclusion, it’s not entirely original; other pictures have attempted comparable notions (though not with such wildly incongruous themes), finding far better results.

– The Massie Twins

  • 2/10