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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Vaughn Stein
scr Matthew Kennedy
prd Richard Barton Lewis, David Wulf, Arianne Fraser
with Lily Collins, Simon Pegg, Connie Nielsen, Chace Crawford, Michael Beach, Marque Richardson, Patrick Warburton, Joe Herrera, Rebecca Adams, Alec James, Josh Murray, Christina DeRosa
release US 26.Jun.20,
20/US Ingenious 1h51
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There's a grandly gothic tone to this thriller, which uses editing and music to add oomph to an extremely corny plot. A starry cast also helps, even if the the overwrought B-movie touches make everything look cheap. Helpfully, this cheesy approach lowers expectations, which allows us to giggle at the over-serious tone and glaring plot holes. But the actors should have run for the hills when they read the script.
When wealthy patriarch Archer Monroe (Warburton) dies suddenly of a heart attack, he leaves behind clues to a dark family secret that his eldest child, District Attorney Lauren (Collins), must keep buried. As she digs into it, literally, her first discovery is the shaggy Morgan (Pegg) chained in an underground bunker. He he has a juicy story to tell, which involves a concealed death, a secret mistress (DeRosa) and other things that would supposedly jeopardise the family fortune. And she's forbidden from telling her mother (Nielsen), husband (Richardson) or Congressman brother (Crawford).
Everything feels artificial from the opening shot, as if the filmmakers drew only on movies they've seen, rather than any personal connection to the material. In other words, it's vacuous and contrived, never remotely grounded. The writing and direction deploy the kinds of cliches that manage to pique the interest, largely because of the slowly unravelling mystery. So it's increasingly frustrating that the truth is so simplistic, little more dull secrets played up as if they're earth-shattering bombshells.
None of the actors escapes unscathed by Kennedy's dopey dialog and Stein's slick-but-blocky direction. Words are spoken in bizarre staccato, so even if seasoned actors add detail, the situations feel fake. A miscast Collins tries to bring her contrived role to life, but looks absurd brandishing a gun. Pegg's fright wig is flatly ridiculous, especially with the ludicrous things he says. And he's the only person with a sense of humour. Nielsen, Crawford, Beach (as the family lawyer) and others valiantly try to add texture to their almost-not-there characters.
As the story attempts to twist and turn, implausibilities pile up everywhere, leading to the requisite Big Revelation. But this is so underwhelming that it elicits yet another groaning eye-roll. The filmmakers assume that the all-knowing Morgan can push the conscientious Lauren into a life-altering moral dilemma, but her reactions make even less sense than the premise itself. Even so, the movie continues straining to generate tension and emotion, stretching the running time at least half an hour beyond the breaking point.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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