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Serenity

Year: 2019
Production Co: Blue Budgie Films Ltd
Director: Steven Knight
Writer: Steven Knight
Cast: Matthew McConaghuey, Ann Hathaway, Dijon Hounsou, Diane Lane, Jason Clarke, Jeremy Strong

First of all, every time a movie comes out that has the same title as another movie I'm reminded of the flap Harvey Weinstein started over Lee Daniels' movie The Butler because he had some personal gripe with someone at Warner Bros. This isn't the big screen redux of Joss Whedon's beloved but short lived TV show Firefly, which was also called Serenity.

But the reason I wanted to watch it was because of the clusterf$&k that accompanied the release. Without remembering the full story I thought stars Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway must have realised they were in a turkey and refused to do any marketing or press about it, something that happens plenty of times.

But no, after reading about the behind the scenes saga it was the distributor who bought the film and then didn't want to do any marketing because they thought they were sitting on a dud, McConaughey and Hathaway publicly shaming them for it.

On reflection, the two leads should have gone with the former because it is indeed a shocker. It's also an extremely difficult review to write because the entire premise is a twist. Handled differently it might have meant an otherwise satisfying film, but it's given away under the wrong circumstance and at the wrong point in the movie and completely fumbles a potentially very surprising reveal.

McConaughey is showing so many abs it looks like he's back in his leaving-on-things-on-the-poster romcom days, but he's a fishing boat captain named Baker Dill (!), a former soldier who runs tourist trips but is not-so-secretly obsessed with catching a giant tuna he knows haunts the waters around his idyllic island home.

Baker puts everyone offside, from his sometime first mate (Djimon Hounsou, who has the singular talent of picking the worst scripts in the business) and paying customers and even his local shag – you could hardly call the way he treats her a 'girlfriend' – Constance (Diane Lane).

Anyway, one day a bombshell femme fatale shows up in the form of Karen, his former wife who's now married to a fearsome, uncouth and violent mobster (Jason Clarke). Karen comes with an unthinkable offer – take her abusive husband on a fishing trip, get him drunk and do him in, and she'll pay handsomely.

But there's a lot more going on. There's a young boy sitting in a bedroom typing on a computer, listening to what sounds like his parents having a screaming match in another room. There's no information anywhere about where Baker and co's island home (a place called New Plymouth) actually is, something a character asks himself in a pivotal moment. There's a buttoned down guy in a suit pursuing Baker everywhere, trying to secure a meeting that seems important. Literary allusions abound all over the place.

It all leads to somewhere that – if you had no idea – you'll never guess in a squillion years, but if you read anything about it during the release, just one word, ' [REDACTED] ' probably spoilt it for you.

There's an argument the cheesy noir dialogue and characterisations are intended because – well, it's supposed to be a noir thriller, and secondly, as the twist reveals, it's all actually [REDACTED], someone who wouldn't know any better and would write just this kind of story with these kind of people speaking these kind of lines.

But just because it's actually [REDACTED], doesn't make it any more interesting or entertaining to watch while it's going on.

Saddest of all it's unthinkable this unflushable turd came from Steven Knight, who did such a beautiful job with Locke. It reminds me of a filmmaker called Rodrigo Cortes who made an ace thriller called Buried about Ryan Reynolds in a coffin. When they gave him a real budget with real locations and more than one actor for his next film, Red Lights, he failed spectacularly, just as Knight has here when he has a bigger canvas than just Tom Hardy in a car.

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