By Dwight Brown Film Critic for DwightBrownInk.com and NNPA News Wire
Benicio Del Toro doesn’t appear in a lot of films. So, his fans need to catch him when they can. Even in meandering crime/dramas.
Music video director Grant Singer (The Weeknd, Sam Smith) adds feature filmmaker and screenwriter to his resume. He teams up with co-screenwriters Benjamin Brewer and Del Toro as they tell a story about the aftermath of a murdered female realtor (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz). Her body, stabbed multiple times, is found in a pool of blood, in an empty house up for sale. It’s a haunting crime scene.
The laconic homicide detective Tom Nichols (Del Toro) tracks the case in Scarborough, Maine where everyone knows everyone. Whodunit? The rich real estate scion boyfriend (Justin Timberlake)? Ex-husband (Karl Glusman)? The boyfriend’s arch enemy (Michael Pitt)? Dirty cops? Clues lead all over town and Nichols doesn’t like what he finds as his leads and suspicions branch out: “Everyone’s a suspect.”
The baffling crime is about as intriguing as an episode of Law & Order, a show that wraps up its narrative neatly in just 60 minutes. While this film noir wears its welcome thin way before it ends after 2h 14m. However, to the writers’ credit, few will guess where the plotline is going for the longest time. The storyline continues to shed its skin, like a reptile. Even as dread and suspense wanes, viewers will stay hooked to this thriller and its twists and turns that are far more interesting than the immemorable dialogue.
Alicia Silverstone seems affable, personable and inquisitive as Tom’s wife. Ato Essandoh (Netflix’s The Diplomat) is perfect too as the quintessential police partner. The talented ensemble cast also includes Mike Pniewski as the police chief, Eric Bogosian as the captain and Domenick Lombardozzi as a fellow cop. The less talented part of the cast includes Justin Timberlake, who seems out of his league.
The storyline and pacing may falter (editor Kevin Hickman), but the visuals don’t: Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, Us; production designer Patrick M. Sullivan, Behind the Candelabra; art director Anthony Bruno; costume designer Amanda Ford and set decorator Paul Roome. All things audio prevail too, especially the sound effects, musical soundtrack (Yair Elazar Glotman) and frequent snippets of the pop hit song “Angel of the Morning.” Over-extended scenes of cars driving down New England roads are either Graves particular style or a homage to David Lynch.
Del Toro doesn’t disappoint. Humorous, serious, determined. He convinces you early on that Tom won’t back off until all responsible are held accountable. And that list grows and grows as the seasoned cop goes deeper and deeper into an increasingly dirty murder mystery where the culprits would shoot him dead if that would stop the investigation.
Requires patience to sit through in a theater. May be less of a cri/thr/mys chore when it streams on Netflix. Tedious, but hard to dismiss until you find out who has blood on their hands.
Visit Film Critic Dwight Brown at DwightBrownInk.com.