“Serenity” is a train wreck of a movie that’s not without its own unique charms. It’s wildly ridiculous but the bonkers absurdity is what makes it so riveting. You’ve probably never seen anything quite like this, a movie I can only describe as a mix between “Fatal Attraction,” “Black Mirror,” “The Maltese Falcon,” and “The Matrix.” It’s a bad, yet not inherently unwatchable, twisty thriller.
Matthew McConaughey is Baker Dill, a fishing boat captain leading tours off the tiny, tropical Plymouth Island. Facing financial trouble, Baker takes tourists out to catch tuna because he is obsessed with hooking the mythical giant fish he calls Justice. Out of the blue, his ex-lover Karen (Anne Hathaway) waltzes in with a desperate plea for Dill to save her and their young son (Rafael Sayegh) from her violent husband Frank (Jason Clarke). She offers Dill $10 million in cash to take their abuser out on a fishing trip and throw him overboard for the sharks.
The plot sounds like your average run-of-the-mill adult thriller. There’s plenty of steamy sex and bloody violence thrown in that’s intended to further titillate the audience. What’s so bizarre is that this movie isn’t genre-specific. It’s a stylized, high concept mystery with a twist that makes no sense yet also explains everything. The film isn’t even very clever in its misdirection and, as hard as I tried to disengage, I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see how it ended. That’s where the film finds its minimal success.
The performances are far better than they should be from actors too good for the material. They’re giving respectable turns even when their characters (and their director) seems to demand near clichéd imitations of other fictional big screen icons ripped from 1970s crime flicks and 1940s film noir. Even the supporting cast is comprised of respected actors like Djimon Hounsou, Diane Lane, and Jeremy Strong. There’s so much talent surrounding the project, which is interesting in itself. How did such an impressive cast get assembled for something as strange as this?
“Serenity” is as off-kilter as anything you’ll ever see. It’s so unclassifiable that I’m having a hard time writing this review. Hell, I’m not even sure if this is a positive or negative write-up. The film is awful, but it’s also wonderful in its own absurd, nonsensical, coo-coo bananas way. One things for certain: it’s absolutely unforgettable.