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Serenity (Matthew McConaughey) - Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

STEVEN Knight has delivered some great scripts in the past, whether on television in the form of Peaky Blinders, or with movies such as Eastern Promises and his own Locke, which he also directed.

Once again taking on writer-director duties for his latest, Serenity, Knight has also put together a mouth-watering cast headed by Matthew McConaughey and also starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Clarke. It makes the question of what went wrong even harder to fathom.

A head-scratcher not for the right reasons, Knight’s film is a story of two halves that intrigues for long periods before dropping in a twist that not only undermines a lot of what has come before, but throws what follows into the realms of the absurd.

Early on, it follows small-town fisherman Baker Dill (McConaughey) as he finds his life disrupted by the return of ex-wife Karen (Hathaway), who offers him $10 million to take her violent new husband (Clarke) on a drink-driven fishing trip so that he can throw him overboard.

Dill is tempted, especially when Karen points out that the action would also afford Dill’s son some protection. But he’s also haunted by strange occurrences, such as being able to communicate with his son in a quasi-supernatural fashion, and by the giant tuna fish he has long since been trying to catch, but which keeps getting away.

Things change, however, when a fishing equipment salesman (Jeremy Strong) hooks up with him and tells him something that alters Dill’s perspective on life and the world he is living in. As a result, nothing is what it seems. And Dill may not even be in control of his own destiny.

If this sounds intriguing, then the concept is at first while you scramble to get your head around it. But where once the movie had been flirting with Body Heat-style territory, it then enters Twilight Zone meets Interstellar kind of stuff that struggles to match the intellectual competence of either.

As the move and its implications are made clear, the movie then becomes a confused, muddled mess. It’s then that peripheral characters such as Diane Lane’s shag-interest and Djimon Hounsou’s first mate seem to have no bearing. Indeed, they’re forgotten.

A domestic abuse subtext that has been bubbling under the surface also comes more into its own as Knight attempts to tie up the various loose ends and deliver a heart-warming climax that actually feels more troubling because of the implications surrounding it.

Anything of depth – notions of free will, domestic violence, justice, etc – are touched upon but glossed over in favour of the rushed climax, which offers little in the way of closure or satisfaction.

McConaughey does his best to keep things on track, mixing desperation with anguish to authentic effect, but Clarke is a tokenistic bad guy and pitches his performance accordingly, while Hathaway fails to convince as a femme fatale and strikes little or no chemistry up with McConaughey.

The exotic locations add some eye candy but eventually prove a distraction in their own way too, as Knight’s script drifts from B-movie trash entertainment to mind-bending rubbish.

Serenity ends up as a colossal waste of time and talent. It’s an ill-conceived vanity project, on Knight’s behalf, that should never really have been allowed to see the light of day.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 106mins
UK Release Date: March 1, 2019 (in cinemas and on Sky Box Office)