Serenity (2 stars)

Serenity

Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway join forces for a sweaty, misfiring thriller with a twist

'You fish for one tuna, man. And that's a tuna that's only in your head,' a bartender tells Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) in this unconventional offering from Peaky Blinders' Steven Knight. Shot in Mauritius and sold as a cross between Body Heat and Sleeping with the Enemy, Serenity comes steeped in the sultry trappings of a white-hot neo-noir, setting the scene for a tale of sex and premature death. Or so we might think…

Unfolding on the fictional Plymouth Island, it finds misanthropic fisherman Dill in pursuit of this nemesis tuna, to the understandable irritation of colleague Duke (Djimon Hounsou). When his slinky ex Karen (Anne Hathaway) tracks him down and attempts to entice him into a plot to kill her abusive husband Frank (Jason Clarke), for the sake of Dill's estranged son Patrick (Rafael Sayegh), Dill is having none of it. He's also being followed by a mysterious bespectacled individual (Succession's Jeremy Strong) who keeps missing him.

For a time, the seesawing atmospherics and softboiled dialogue give it the feel of a cut-price Double Indemnity ('Whenever I'm around fisherman I wish I had bigger hands,' remarks Strong confusingly), while Dill's fishy fixation and the tendency to submerge the camera in the unknowable ocean has a touch of Jaws; but Knight has a more outlandish idea. His desire to depart from the norm is to be applauded in a film he admits is 'experimental'. Yet, as the rug comes away, what we're left with is ill-thought-out, there's a frustrating absence of clues or detail, the execution isn't especially playful, nor is what transpires particularly tense.

Many of the film's flaws are directly related to a twist which necessarily limits character development and keeps us in the orbit of a protagonist who is predominantly a massive drag; a few scenes of howling, scenery devouring anguish aside, McConaughey is on grizzled autopilot here. Diane Lane's sugar momma Constance has almost nothing to do and it's a shame that Clarke features so fleetingly, as Frank is the exactly the kind of arsehole whose murder you could get excited about. Meanwhile, it's a baffling career choice for Hathaway whose 'sexy victim' is bordering on the offensive – the film's reveal making her character's depiction all the more creepy.

Aiming for brain-bending, Serenity is certainly a head-scratcher; you'll wonder why the cast were drawn to such a questionable concept.

General release and on Sky Cinema from Fri 1 Mar.

Serenity

  • 2 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 46min
  • Directed by: Steven Knight
  • Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong
  • UK release: 1 March 2019

Dill (McConaughey) is a misanthropic fisherman whose slinky ex Karen (Hathaway) tries to entice into a plot to kill her abusive husband (Clarke). All the trappings of a white-hot neo-noir turn out to be related to a twist that necessarily limits character development. A highly questionable concept makes for a real…

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