Courtesy of Aviron
“Serenity” is a rare breed of trash cinema, a nonsensical and obnoxious late January release that reeks of a director whose vision far outreaches his grasp. Featuring two Oscar winners in the form of Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway and additional support from Diane Lane and Djimon Hounsou (who are both Oscar nominees as well), “Serenity” desperately wants to be a pulpy noir thriller, and ends up playing its audience against themselves.
McConaughey, who appears to be making fun of himself from “True Detective,” is the luscious fisherman Baker Dill, whose steamy moral conflict is that he can’t obtain a large aquatic fish which manages to elude the expert captain at every corner. Shacked up on a remote and isolated destination known only as Plymouth Island where “everyone knows everything,” director Steven Knight (“Locke”) begins testing our patience with odd camera angles, and big named actors (most notably Lane) only being used for quick sex scenes. Dill even mutters the terrific one liner: “I’m a hooker without any hooks.”
That was the first twenty minutes.
Things start to become murky when a blondie (Anne Hathaway - cashing an easy paycheck) from Baker’s past shows up to persuade him to murder her husband (that’d be Jason Clarke murmuring and sloshing around with a thick accent) for a whopping $10 million smackers because she wants a life where the loser can’t abuse and torment herself and her son Patrick, which is also Baker’s kid too.
Seems reasonable enough, with Hathaway and McConaughey giving enough conviction to try and amp up the films trashy plot. In essences, I was hoping it would detour down the sinful path of “Wild Things.” Instead, it takes a twisty turn late in the third act that’ll make your head spin, and then want to walk out and leave the theater.
I’m not sure I would be able to fully explain the scope of what Knight was trying to accomplish, because he tosses a few too many logs on the fire, including a pencil-pushing bait salesman named Reid Miller (Jeremy Strong) who is diligently trying to track down Mr. Dill but always seems to miss him. His participation in this project, much like the entire cast, is a giant mystery to me and the moviegoing population.
“Serenity” - which is named after Dill’s fishing boat - at best reminded me of Tom Cruise’s “Vanilla Sky” or even a psychotic version of “The Truman Show” with its absurdist take on modern day technology. Every actor takes their turn in this strange, obscure, and jagged game, but it's the audience who ends up getting played.