Not to be confused with Joss Whedon’s underrated sci-fi of the same name, just to be confused full stop. I’m not even joking! For a film that seems to have a simple premise, the narrative of Serenity (2019) it is presented in such an odd way until the second half when a strange twist happen and then becomes bonkers from then on.
Baker Dill, a fisherman living on a small island, is struggling with money and is obsessed with trying to catch a large tuna called Justice. His ex-wife Karen, now married to an abusive billionaire Frank Zariakas, is desperate to escape her marriage with her son Patrick, who is also Baker’s son. She offers Baker $10million to take Frank out on his fishing boat, get him drunk and push him overboard.
The film has the setup with the characters of your average film noir: Baker, a hero with a mysterious past; Karen the beautiful femme fatale; Frank the rich antagonist; Duke, the voice of reason. Then we have a murder plot, as well as other elements such businessman Reid Miller stalking Baker, prostitution - only in this case it’s our hero Baker taking money for sex - and Baker and Karen’s son hiding himself in his room programming a video game.
This film features an all-star cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane, Jason Clark, Djimon Hounsou and Jeremy Strong. They all deliver the best performances they possibly could with what they’re given to work with, which includes a lot of weird dialogue and odd scene direction.
As mentioned, the setup is a simple noir style story, yet even before the twist is revealed the film already feels kind of over the top and unnatural. The camerawork and editing makes it feel almost cartoony. For example, when Karen is introduced we see the back of her head then the camera rotates to a close-up of her face. The shot itself was clearly sped up in post production, as if director Steven Knight is winking to the audience saying, ‘yes this the femme fatale!’
Then there are moments that seem so random. For example, there’s a scene where Baker strips naked, goes outside saying he’s going for a shower, and then jumps off a cliff into the ocean. We then spend a while with him swimming naked until he sees an image of his son swimming towards him. Why?
It’s difficult to talk about this film without spoiling it because of its bizarre twist. Before I give away the twist, I will say this film is worth seeing. It’s no masterpiece by any means, but it’s entertaining and the bizarreness has to be seen to be believed.
So be warned there a spoilers from here on!
When Blake finally talks to Reid Miller, he reveals they are in fact players in a fishing game created by Patrick. Baker was created to represent Patrick’s father, who died in the military; he created the game as a way to cope with his mother being abused by his stepfather. He eventually kills his stepfather in reality and is living out the fantasy of his game.
Characters such as Reid and Duke see that Blake is going off the game’s rules and try to stop him from going against how Patrick controls him. After Blake successfully kills Frank, Patrick is charged with second-degree murder and his released into his mother’s care. He then programs himself into the game to be reunited with his father.
Points for creativity, no doubt; it certainly explains why the first half of the film seems to have a cartoonish tone. It doesn’t explain, however, why Patrick programs his father figure to be a prostitute and a heavy drinker, and then have him jump off cliffs naked. Also, do the game characters have their own thoughts and feelings? Otherwise why would Blake rebel against Patrick’s programming?
If that doesn’t sound bonkers to you, I don’t know what does.
Written by Jack Parish