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Review: Hugh Jackman can't make sense of convoluted 'Reminiscence'

Courtesy of Warner Bros.


A neo-noir sci-fi fantasy inspired by the likes of Christopher Nolan, “Blade Runner” and “Minority Report,” Lisa Joy’s glossy, but hollow “Reminiscence” gets high on its own supply. Featuring a buffo lead performance from Hugh Jackman (groveling through tedious voiceovers), Joy’s film is a convoluted misstep that, like her own “Westworld,” might have served better as an HBO series. As it stands, “Reminiscence” is all style and zero substance, setting its location in a futuristic Miami where people only come out at night because it's too hot during the day (global warming!) and it rains all the time. Such uninspired choices don’t do the film any favors as does Jackman’s brooding, look-at-me-I’m-sophisticated performance. He brings an odd and unnecessary intensity to the role (even getting a “WHERE IS SHE” moment). It’s like if Wolverine were playing Cobb from “Inception.” It just doesn’t work.

At the heart of the movie is a love story, a suave detective needlessly obsessed with a mysterious woman who just happens to walk into his life. Jackman’s Nick Bannister, however, isn’t exactly a detective, but an expert intergerrator, something he learned during his time in the war, utilizing technology to see into people’s memories. The technology (not far removed from how Tom Cruise was able to see into the future in Steven Speilberg’s 2002 epic) works by attaching a device to the brain waves of the subjects and fully immersing them into a small chamber that in turn projects their memories in holographic 3D.

Everything changes for Nick when Mae (Rebecca Ferguson - Jackman’s “The Greatest Showman” co-star) a lounge singer waltzes in to relieve precious memories, but the chemistry is palpable and a spark ignites between them (oh, doesn’t it always?) She disappears, sending Nick on a city wide soul-searching escapade because he just has a feeling something is wrong despite his assistant, Watts (Thandiwe Newton - absolutely wasted) begging him to let it go. Suddenly, a woman we’ve briefly met becomes the sole focus of “Reminiscence” and the audience probably couldn’t care less. Nick MUST find Mae at all costs and it spirals the film into a wild goose chase involving a shady gangster (Daniel Wu) and the bastard child of a local mob boss trying to evade police capture.

To its credit, “Reminiscence” never looks bad and Paul Cameron’s gorgeous cinematography gives the film stunning clarity and resolution. And Jackman, bless him, can always pull something from a smugless character, especially one as creepy as Nick, but there are several moments where he’s pandering to the camera in a bid to remind us that he’s Hugh Jackman I guess? Lots of solid ideas are festering throughout Joy’s vision, but it’s got several things cooking that never really amount to much. You almost need a flow chart to keep track of all the intersecting subplots and even then, it's still a dream one would rather forget.

Grade: C-

REMINISCENCE is now playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.


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