Film Review: Serenity

Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway

Frances Winston reviews Serenity, starring Matthew McConaughey

Serenity Directed by: Steven Knight  – Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong

With such a stellar cast, which includes a few Oscar winners, expectations have been very high for this film. But as the saying goes be careful what you wish for. To say that this doesn’t live up to its potential is an understatement.

The premise seemed hopeful and straightforward – a fisherman, Baker (McConaughey) is approached by his ex-wife Karen (Hathaway) who wants him to kill her abusive husband, Frank (Clarke in his second release of the week alongside The Aftermath). Although his main concern till this point has been catching a giant tuna he has christened Justice, he agrees to help Karen for the sake of their son, Patrick, with whom he shares a special connection.

That all sounds pretty watchable. Except that it’s not. This completely loses the run of itself, employing a simply ridiculous twist that Knight probably thought was quite clever. This twist, which creates confusion about what genre you are actually watching, is only a tiny part of the problem. The script is appalling. It is riddled with clichés. The characters are almost parodies.

Hathaway is doing her best femme-fatale impression – perhaps trying to channel Lana Turner in that classic noir, The The Postman Always Knocks Twice – but she never seems comfortable doing it. Clarke is a total caricature as the drunken and abusive Frank. Meanwhile, McConaughey dials it in and couldn’t really seem to care less whether or not he follows through on his agreement. You would think such melodramatic and OTT roles would allow them some artistic freedom, but they all just seem bored throughout.

I’d love to say that this made up for some of these flaws by being beautifully shot or something similar, but unfortunately not. To be honest, everything about this film is a total mess. It’s not even entertaining in a so bad it’s good kind of way. It veers off the rails very early on, and never manages to get back on track. Within 30 minutes you really don’t care what happens to any of the characters, and you actually become impatient for the end.

This reminded me of the Hammer House of Horror TV series from the 80s. The production values and ideas seemed stuck there. It’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen (that honour still rests with Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill) but it is pretty darn bad.

What I find astonishing is that Knight got so many big names to agree to appear in this. One can only assume that he didn’t give them the whole script, so they were unaware of the twist before they signed. Without them it would no doubt have gone straight to VOD (and indeed it is being released on Sky Cinema simultaneously with its theatre release).

Watch this at your own peril, because it’s 106 minutes you will never get back. You have been warned.

In cinemas on limited release!

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