Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

dir Grant Singer
scr Grant Singer, Benjamin Brewer, Benicio Del Toro
prd Molly Smith, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill
with Benicio Del Toro, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Carmen Pitt, Frances Fisher, Eric Bogosian, Ato Essandoh, Domenick Lombardozzi, Karl Glusman, Matilda Lutz, Mike Pniewski, Thad Luckinbill
release US 22.Sep.23,
UK 29.Sep.23
23/US 2h14

timberlake pitt fisher

Is it streaming?

Del Toro and Silverstone
Directed with plenty of visual style by first-time feature filmmaker Grant Singer, this thriller maintains an unusually moody tone. The story plays out at a ponderous pace that feels beefy and intense, even as the splintering plot structure becomes oddly unfocussed. So while the characters are strongly developed both in the script and by the actors, it's not easy to maintain interest in where the narrative is headed.
In a wealthy New England town, Detective Tom (Del Toro) and his partner Dan (Essandoh) are investigating the perplexing murder of an estate agent (Lutz), starting with the victim's boyfriend Will (Timberlake). Since he doesn't seem to have a motive, they turn to her shifty ex Sam (Glusman). But the clues continually circle back to Will and his property developer mother Camille (Fisher), plus oddball family acquaintance Eli (Pitt), who thinks there's something much bigger going on here. Indeed, Tom finds that evidence is shaky, key clues are elusive and everyone is obviously hiding something.
While the filmmaking continually isolates Tom as the only honest person on-screen, details and offbeat characters emerge in each scene, increasing the story's scale. Tom discusses each discovery with his wife Judy (Silverstone), who has her own theories and helps him make sense of his thoughts. And his police colleagues, from retiring captain Robert (Bogosian) to swaggering Wally (Lombardozzi), also wade in with opinions on the case and life in general. But this is never as complex as it appears.

With so many shady goings on, it's difficult to remain involved in the over-arching whodunit. As the world-weary cop and his observant wife, Del Toro and Silverstone have a quiet steeliness at the story's epicentre, creating an intriguing, textured relationship that feels genuinely connected, almost conspiratorial. Timberlake makes Will feel like a victim who is hiding something, while Pitt brings a scurrying rat-like quality to Eli. And veterans Fisher and Bogosian add some edgy gravitas to the whole film.

Essentially this is yet another tale of power, corruption and greed, and where it ultimately goes isn't particularly surprising. But it unfolds with lots of style and atmosphere, and high-end production values continually remind us that it's meant to be taken as a prestige project. Frustratingly, the underlying themes aren't robust enough to make this vastly overlong film very memorable, rehashing the usual exhausted good cop scenario. It's beautifully shot and acted, but a bit more earthy momentum would have given it a real kick.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 24.Sep.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall